Poetry goes beyond a theatrical act to the movement of change
Ashraf Aboul-Yazid, winner of the Sawiris Award for Children's Literature, says
“Who could leave poetry or forsake it? The poet is waiting for poetry’s blessings, and I write the poems individually and publish them”
Interviewed by: Nidal Bishara
The Egyptian writer Ashraf Aboul-Yazid is a novelist, poet, and journalist. He also wrote travel and children’s literature. He worked in cultural journalism for more than 3 decades. He is the editor-in-chief of the Arabic “Asia Inn”; Next News Network, and its paper sister “Magazine N”, which is published in Seoul in Korean, English and Arabic. Editor-in-Chief of the Silk Road Literature Series, coordinator of the World Poetry Movement in Egypt.
He has published 42 books in the arts in which he wrote, and he won several awards, for example, the Arab Press Award in Culture in 2015 (United Arab Emirates), and the most recent of which is the Sawiris Award in Children’s Literature for his novel (My Cat Write a Book), Egypt, 2023.
A Sense of Adventure
Writer Ashraf Aboul-Yazid says: I started my writing by telling adventure stories and drawing them, and I used to print one copy of them and color their drawings. I had the opportunity to talk to children again in poetry and narration, and my experience (Majid’s Adventures on the Silk Road) serial for four years was an important landmark. In my book (My Cat Writes a Book) I have dedicated what I believe in; that writing for children be a mixture of literature and science, a sense of adventure and sensitivity to language. Writing for a child requires maturity, study, and practice. It is a parallel creative life.
I started my writing by telling adventure stories and drawing them
As for the second important event in his recent experience, the issuance of a mega issue of Revista Prometeo by the Medellin International Poetry Festival, for the participants in its thirty-second edition, and included selections from his poetry and biography. This event illuminates us by saying that for more than 3 decades, the Medellin International Poetry Festival has been a pilgrimage site for world poets, and this edition serves as an annual, printed and digital anthology, for contemporary poetic production, renewed year after year.
And about the possibility of talking about it as the most important poetry festival, Aboul-Yazid says: “If you are talking about a connected, global experience, then the typical example is the Medellin International Poetry Festival. But I did not go to Baghdad to experience its festival in Merbid, which some Arabs considered a great poetic gathering, and perhaps its light was not devoid of the shadow of politics. But, in the midst of what is going on in the world, I tell you with the rhythm of what Nazem Hikmat wrote: “The most beautiful festivals have not yet been existed”!… When the poetry festival becomes more than just a platform and cheerleaders, it will be the most important one; because it will go beyond the scene of a theatrical act to the movement of change.
A Different Taste
Concerning our surprise that he has not published poetry books for years, despite our observation that most of his activities are participations in festivals and publications of nano-poetry, or translations, he clarified: “Who could leave poetry or forsake it? The poet is waiting for poetry’s blessings, and I write the poems individually and publish them, after I have published five collections, but I take care the issuance of my poems, their anthologies, old and new, in other languages, so my poems books have been translated into Spanish, English, Persian, Turkish, Sindhi, German, and Russian, in addition to other languages in literary periodicals.
In the light of these translations, the latest of which was his poetic book “A Street in Cairo” in Russian, we ask what does translation give to his poetry? The poet says that we celebrated this translation by the Azeri-Russian poet Eldar Akhadov of “A Street in Cairo” into Russian, in Baku, the capital of Azerbaijan, and then we celebrated it again in Cairo when its Muscovite edition (Golden LIFFT) was published, which publishes collections of poets crowned with the gold medal at the Eurasian Literary Festival. . A new language means new readers, a different taste, renewed looks, and a presence that transcends the material to the spiritual. The book is part of me, and I am happy that it resonates in other tongues.
And because the poet Aboul-Yazid is active in translation as well, we asked him: What is your starting point in translating any book, and let us talk as an example of the collection of the Russian poet Alexandra Ocherova, which she recently published? He says: I translate what I like. This is how I translated the biography of Salvador Dali as a mirror of my love for art, and I presented the poems of the Koreans “Ko Un” and “Cho O-Hyun and Manhae” because they are the equivalent of difference and brevity, and I introduced Arabic to Indian poems such as the poems “Hemant Devati” because he presents the different third India, neither historical nor cinematic, but realistic. The poems of UNESCO Goodwill Ambassador Aleksandra Ocherova represent her horizons, but they also embody ours. Horizons that believe in a better tomorrow and honor history, but dream of a brighter future. I was translating ourselves – we poets – into Ocherova’s poems.
I introduced Arabic to Indian poems such as the poems “Hemant Devati” because he presents the different third India, neither historical nor cinematic, but realistic.
And through the follow-up of the poet Aboul-Yazid to sponsor what he calls nano-poems, we ask him if this contributes to the development of poetry, especially since we in Syria have recently called it “a brief form of literature” whether in poetry or in the story, and previously names such as the flesh poem. He affirms that there is no poetry without experimentation, and the nano-poems, with their brief formation and five senses, are part of this experiment. 151 poets responded to my call to write nanopoems for Africa to be published in the Silk Road anthology series, after the anthologies of (Asia Sings), (Mediterranean Waves), (Ancient Egyptians. Modern Poets), and (Arabian Nights, world Poems).
In light of his view that travel literature is the son of travels, especially since he practiced it in many forms, investigations, and books, we ask if this literature is still out of the spotlight, without losing sight of the Ibn Battuta Prize awarded by the Arab Center for Geographical Literature in Abu Dhabi and London. He commends the role of the Arab Center for Geographical Literature, which provided its service to this literature, as it revived it with the award, as well as its creative and investigative publications. And in the series (Exploring the Horizons), I published my investigation of the journey of Sheikh Mustafa Abd al-Razeq, Sheikh of Al-Azhar, Memoirs of a Traveler, which he made 11 decades ago to France. He also published two contemporary trips (Caravan of Moroccan Tales), and encouraged dozens of writers and investigators to write down and publish their travels, or investigate the treasures of our Arab travels. But we need more than one center in the east and west, to enter more into the research laboratory after the deployment.
This meeting concludes for us by shedding light on the first Asian conference of the World Poetry Movement, which he has been promoting for a few days, by pointing out that the World Poetry Movement will hold its first conference in Colombia and Venezuela next summer, and these continental conferences are preparation for it, so we held our African conference of the movement in January. The Asian conference will be held this month, and next month the European conference will be held, and so on, so that the poets and ambassadors of the continents go there.
First published in UAE by the 24 website, a part of a group of media initiatives under the umbrella of “24 for Media Studies.