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Volume :26 Issue : 96 2000      Add To Cart                                                                    Download

A TEXTUAL READING OF A VERY MODERN BUT AMBIGUOUS POEM: “AND THE ASHES HAVE FLAMES” BY SA’AD AL-HAMEEDEIN ... (Principal Article of the Issue)

Auther : Dr. Alawi H. Al-Hashemi

 

The Poem ‘And the Ashes have Flames’ by the Saudi Poet Sa’ad Al Hameedein, which was published in Riyadh Journal on 14 November 1996 is a problematic poem par excellence. Thus, I hesitated for a long time before approaching it critically though I realized the importance of this approach and had the feeling that it was exquisite.

The epithet Problematic, which I attributed to this poem stems from several sources: intellectual, artistic and critical. I can say that it challenges its first reading without any patience or resistance on the part of the reader to overcome this rugged isthmus of challenges to the end of the poem, which is a long one.

But length is not the reason for its difficulty alone; the density of its poetic language, sequences of its sentences and the overlapping of its structures, the ambiguity of its many symbols, the range of its levels expression and the shifting from standard to colloquial in words, sentences, implications and text dependence, the employing of personal, national and traditional memories; all of these constitute the artistic manifestations and structural matters which are related to the content, the language and the rhythm which constitute without any exception the actual sources of this difficulty.

Perhaps a serious reader of this problematic poem has no choice but to be confronted with a flood of questions and theoretical matters, which are generated in his mind as he cuts his way through the entwining branches in these dark forests with his hesitating walk and slow steps. Of these urgent questions, one can mention the following:

  • Why has the poet opted for this poetic approach, which is an expression of his experience?
  • Why should there be such difficulty, density and ambiguity?
  • And has Al Hameedein carved for himself a new approach in writing, which oppose his previous poetic path? And why?
  • Can we call what he has written poetry? Or is it mere hallucination and lapses of unrestrained imagination?
  • And how can we as readers deal with this problematic and disappointing poem if we consider his previous poetic experience?
  • Moreover, where is the poetic language, the imagery, the symbol and the rhythm? Or where is the subject, the mood or the content in the poem? In short, where is poetry in this poem/riddle?

All these questions were triggered in my mind while reading the poem for the first time, as it did, undoubtedly, in the minds of other readers. And yet, there were many theoretical matters, which are linked to these questions: they have woven them and prevented them from slipping or drifting towards nihilism or destruction. Of these theoretical matters that can be put in question forms to be compared with previous questions are the following:

  • Wasn’t Al Hameedein a poet in the past 20 years in which he issued five (5) collections of poetry?

  • Or didn’t we accept him as a creative poet and the leader of Modern Poetry in Saudi poetry since the beginning of the seventies?

  • Or was he in his long poetic and developed experience, which took him years, attempting to shape our poetic awareness as readers and followers of his poetic experience?

  • Doesn’t a poet have the right to step outside the circle of our expectations as in this poem?

  • Is this drift a point for the poet or against him? And why?

  • Don’t we have the right, regardless of not being good readers to play the role of the poet’s guardians and inspectors of his creative achievements?

  • Are we the ones who lead the poet’s vision with out steps or is it the poet’s vision and conquests, which lead us to new horizons?

  • Then, what did Alkhalil Bin Ahmed Alfarhahidi mean in his words, which were quoted by Hazim Al Qurtajni in (The Footsteps of Eloquents) that the poets are the princes of speech?

  • Can the princes of poetry be equal to its slaves?

  • Aren’t we supposed to contemplate joining the poet’s company and benefiting from his vitality instead of resting in lethargy by blaming and reproaching him?

All of these theoretical matters, though related to the earlier questions, for an interactive unit of pattern and imagery, which under no circumstances can any researcher of Al Hameedein’s poem simplify or prepare to present it both united parts despite being paradoxical. Then to adopt this interactive unit theoretically as a basis for any analytical approach, the researcher intends to apply to the poem. This intellectual basis, which supports these questions and theoretical matters, which may emerge as the result of various readings of the poem may constitute a special significance, which is not less in importance than the analytical approach though it exceeds it in status and in excellence.

It might be the poet’s aim to adopt this special method in writing poetry and to force us to accompany him in this difficult voyage, which would eventually cause the shock intended by the poet to the reader or any type of readers who need this shock.

I am pleased to be personally one of the shocked readers and thus to have this shock as in impetus for analysing the poem and facing its great challenges. Otherwise, I might have bypassed it an acted the role of an excelled reader. This means if I failed to encounter the poem and disparage it as some of those who sought comfort wrote about it in Saudi Journals.

The practice of critical theory throughout the years has taught me to face the difficulty of any poetic text and its challenges specially in modern poetry and to adopt a dual procedure of which the first side is represented as interrogating the text itself by reading it repetitiously and endlessly, which means going in a continuous circle round its high fences by insisting on knocking on all of its closed doors.

The second aspect of the procedural dualism is shown in the poet’s whole experience and in the reading of all that he has written of poems: my knowledge is that all new poetic phenomena have their roots in ancient poetry. And this is what made me come back to the reading of all poetic collections by Al Hameedein.

In fact, I found the roots of Al Hameedein’s new poem “And the Ashes have Flames’ in the soil of his five collections especially in his last poetic collection ‘The Flourish of Remorse’, which was published three years ago. I sought those hidden roots, in particular in his last two poems of this collection and these are ‘Leave her….And Leave me’ and ‘A Letter from Fetching Sterility’.

I preserved the first poem in its soil with the seeds of subject, content and the poetic situation of which the poem ‘And the Ashes have Flames’ is about. Whereas the second poem embodied the complex structural form which crystallized its image in Al Hameedein’s last poem.

The remaining poems in the collection ‘The Flourishing of Remorse’ and others in his poetical works were a fertile platform for the poet’s lexicon and his indicative terms, which became the main semantic keys in his new poem. Thus, it assisted me a lot in understanding the trends in his poetic images and the symbolic implications and ways of generating and joining each other which at the end will shape the features of the poetic diction of ‘And the Ashes have Flames’.

I have dealt with all of these stable seeds in the soil of Al Hameedein’s ancient poetry during my research attempts to discover the features of his last poem, and in my analytical approach to the poem with a hope that I reach by this intended approach a number of theoretical matters and attempt to answer part of the intellectual questions which have been raised in the beginning of this abstract.

The critical approach to this poem, however, touched upon the poetic content, the poetic language and the poetic rhythm.

Finally, studying these three levels, however, does not mean that I have exhausted this difficult poem or understood all its meanings and lit its dark and rugged paths. But what I can state is that I accepted the challenge which the poem confronted me with when it provoked me with what it contains of good and bad, and shocked me as a reader specialised in its scattered gray language which I tried my best to follow.

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