Shi’r By Luce, Mark D.
The journal, Shi’r (Poetry 1957–70) was established in Beirut by Yūsuf al-Khāl and the poet theorist Adunis to save poetry from politics. It emerged as a professional avant-garde monthly journal with a core group of young poets dedicated to poetry and poetic studies. The journal supported poetic experimentation. Shi’r advocated for the prose poem as a way to spark cultural change, believing that innovative efforts were necessary to intellectually modernize the Arab World.
Shi’r rebelled against the ‘committed literature’ (al-adab al-multazim) movement of the 1950s and 1960s. The circle believed this to be ‘a prostitution of art’ to political causes and ideologies. Shi’r was perceived as a subversive cultural movement. It was banned in a number of countries, accused of supporting a culture war against Arab nationalism, and of being funded by the CIA and French intelligence, inter alia.
Shi’r’s poets were more concerned with the post-colonial Arab ‘state of being’ than reforming or overthrowing states. The Shi’r poets adopted the concept of ru’iya or vision theorized in 1959 by Adunis (Ali Ahmad Said) who asserted that modern poetry possessed a mystical or intuitive knowledge that allowed the poet to see beyond. The intention was to liberate Arab consciousness and to liberate it from the qasidah using the Arabic language, to free one’s thinking.