posted on 18/12/2008: 612 views
Haneen Ajarneh has everything to play for. She is one of only three women out of 48 finalists in this year's Millions Poet television show.
"I was so happy to have been admitted to the finals and to have reached the Arab public across the Arab world,” says Ms Ajarneh, a psychologist from Naour, one of many Bedouin villages in Jordan's desert valleys.
"It takes poetic aptitude and ability to appear convincing. It takes audacity and determination, especially as a woman.”
As one of the few women in the competition, which is focused on the Nabati style of poetry that is at the heart of Bedouin culture, she is emblematic of female Bedouin identity.
This is the first time she has entered Millions Poet, which is in its third year, but she has participated in local competitions and in Jordan Poets, a similar show in her home country.
She says the poetry of Bedouins differs markedly from classical Arabic poetry, which is the more common style in the region.
"The topics are more traditional,” she says. "We talk about horses, hunting, cultural experiences, using authentic imagery.”
Miss Ajarneh credits her father with helping develop her "gift” of reciting and writing poetry. She is often called to perform at poetry shows and competitions.
"I write about sensitive, emotional topics: life, family, feelings, my national identity.” As a woman, she knows this is something to relish. "Since poetry is a gift, of course it is possible for women to triumph over men. A more gifted woman would perform better poetically.”
She cites the poetry of Sheikh Mohammed Bin Rashid, the Vice President of the UAE and the Ruler of Dubai, among her inspirations.
"His poetry is beautiful,” she says. Earlier this year, Sheikh Mohammed established Dubai's House of Poetry, a research centre to document Arabic poetry and strengthen its profile within the Arab world and beyond.
"I love all poetry that innovates and has rich symbols and imagery,” she says. "I also love the work of Prince Khaled Al Faisal and Badr Al Mohsen.”
Forty eight finalists will compete over 16 weeks, delivering verse in the Nabati dialect. Each week contestants will be eliminated in live shows from the Al Raha Beach Theatre. The prize for the winner is Dh5 million (US$1.4m).
This year's competition was widened to include Jordan, whose large Bedouin community has helped raise the profile of Nabati poetry.
Millions Poet will be aired live tonight at 10.30 on Abu Dhabi TV. Entrance is free. – The National
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