Twenty poets will compete for a Dh1 million prize when the sixth season of the classical Arabic poetry competition Prince of Poets begins a run of live shows in Abu Dhabi on Wednesday night.
The series is massively popular, with last season's competition - won by Alaa Janib, 40, an Arabic Literature Lecturer at Cairo University - attracting around 20 million viewers.
"Over the past five seasons, millions of viewers have had the chance to follow 50 poetry evenings aired live on TV, with all the dreams, ambitions, funny situations as well as critical and happy moments,” says director of the Poetry Academy at Abu Dhabi's Cultural Programmes and Heritage Festivals Committee, Sultan Al Amimi.
The programme, which is screened every two years, has become one of the most-watched in the Arab region. It's not to be confused with the other Abu Dhabi-filmed popular poetry competition, Million's Poet, which is also funded by Abu Dhabi Tourism and Culture Authority and filmed at Al Raha Theatre but is recited in the ancient Nabiti or Bedu dialect.
Since Prince of Poets was first aired back in 2007, it has revealed the talents of 145 poets.
"When we started Prince of Poets, 12-year-olds weren't watching,” says Issa Al Mazrouei, member of the Abu Dhabi Cultural Programmes and Heritage Festivals Committee, which runs the show. "Many of our viewers now are from the new generation. They're learning classical poetry by watching our show. The participation of young poets stands out as clear evidence of the ongoing appeal and popularity of poetry as a form of expression.”
Despite the programme's name, females poets have competed, and organisers say there will be women in the upcoming season.
The selection process for this year's final 20 has been exhaustive and months in the making. In the four pre-recorded episodes that have already screened, the show's jury interviewed 300 poets from 29 countries. They were shortlisted from thousands of classical Arabic poetry submissions sent in last year.
Even when this season's winners have been announced, the show's organisers continue to support aspiring poets. That includes participating in special collections published by the Poetry Academy at the Cultural Programmes and Heritage Festivals Committee and poetry competitions in UAE schools.
"The competition has actually contributed to the initiation of an important poetry movement that has been playing a key role in the support of the Arab cultural scene,” says Mazrouei. "It has provided an opportunity for poets to act as ambassadors for their countries and mirrors their deep-rooted and insightful cultures.”
The show will be screened live at 10pm on Baynounah TV channel, the Saudi TV channel 1 (KSA1), and the Egyptian El Mehwar TV.
Source: The National