any scholars argue that Pre-Islam or Jahiliya era was a stage to the greatest poetry ever delivered in the history of the Arab world, and poets of that time enjoyed a status akin to Kings. The subsequent times in the history of Arab poetry, Omayyad, the Abbaside, and the Andalousian periods had one common thread: the Poet was the magical force that drove change and pioneered modernism. Poets of those times such as Al-Motanabbi, Abu Jahl, Antr, Al Khansaa, Imraa Al Qais, Nabigha Doubyani, Al Jahed, Ibn Haytam, Al Maari, remained giants in the world of Arab poetry and their poetry is taught in most Arab schools and universities.
In the twentieth century Arab poetry became an embattled voice for change with its new visions and prophecies, and its disillusions with the very archetypal visions it has created for an Arab world, united and facing challenges of modernity. The harsh realities at every facet of Arab life, from political struggles to economic strife, compelled contemporary Arab poets role and function to search for a dramatic arena that screams for social change. Poets souls became a voice that is discontent with its own stagnating society, and the ruling political powers that curtailed freedom and justice, and waned in front of alienating western influences.
The struggle between the old and the new and the battle to carve out a new identity for the Arab world produced great poets and a new school of poetry that tossed out some of the old poetic garbs and changed form and content, and embraced new literary genres. After world war two, free verse took shape as an alternative that changed the constraining classical poetry with its rigid metering and scales and unyielding forms, the very epic and glorious classical poetry that sustained and dominated the poetic literary scene for over eighteen centuries.
A new form and content was born with exquisite mystical and metaphysical dimensions and a fine creative literary style influenced by Western literature to name the French, and English symbolism and realism. Prominent poets such as Al-Bayyati, Nizar Qabbani, Qassim Haddad, Mahmoud Darwish and Ahmad Ali Said known as Adonis worked to fill the silos of social emptiness, urging the Arabs to modernize and fight for their rights to freedom and justice.
Maybe, the paradigm shift at every level of poetic creation is indicative of a psychological profound state of depression that needed to pioneer a new reality for the Arab world. The school of romanticism found itself in the dark alleys of guilt as it was deemed less appropriate and risqué for the troubled times. This was echoed in one of Nizar Qabbani. Also known as the poet of love, when he wrote: You have changed me in a single moment from a poet writing of love and longing, to a poet writing with a knife.
The shifting balance between the grim realities of an Arab civilization that once ruled the world, and a desolate state of affairs that seemed comatose, forced Arab poets to become catalysts for change. Some calling for extreme radical measures, and some merely decrying the slow death of the Arab civilization as they once knew it. The role of being typically the angels of aesthetic beauty was also challenged by emerging religious conservatism, another force that kept the Arab poet under constant check for political correctness.
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