Barjeel Poetry Prize: Where Visual Art and Poetry Engage in Dialogue

Barjeel Poetry Prize: Where Visual Art and Poetry Engage in Dialogue

The UAE-based Barjeel Art Foundation has launched the Barjeel Poetry Prize, inviting poets from around the world to respond to 20 works of 20th-century Arabic art from its collection. The prize is open to anyone aged 14 or over writing in Arabic or English, with categories divided by age group too.

First prize in each category is $500, with each runner-up picking up $250. The winning poems will also be displayed in the Barjeel museum and published in “Rusted Radishes,” a literary magazine.

Barjeel’s founder, Sultan Sooud Al-Qassemi, told Arab News that the competition was inspired by Dia Azzawi’s 1968 painting “A Wolf Howls: Memories of a Poet,” which was based on a poem by renowned Iraqi poet Muzaffar Al-Nawab, and is one of the paintings included in the competition.

“I have always been interested in the intersection of different forms of art and culture, such as music and film, and I wanted to interrogate the intersection of poetry with Arab art,” Al-Nawab explained to Arab News.

Palestinian-American filmmaker and poet Hind Shoufani — who organized the competition along with “ArabLit Quarterly” editor Marcia Lynx Qualey and Lebanese poet Zeina Hashem Beck — told Arab News, “We hope the prize will encourage fresh engagement with Arab art, which is a diverse and rich scene that many people might not know enough about. The crossover between language and visual art is fascinating, and we hope that by sparking people’s imagination, we can support the enrichment of cultural dialogue, memory, expression and interdimensional communication in these challenging times.”

“It is really key to introduce Arab youth to the artists who defined certain eras or movements in the region,” she continued. “And to highlight the achievements of these artists and the topics they delved into.”

The works chosen to offer inspiration to the poets certainly cover a wide range of topics and media. “We wanted the selection to be diverse and varied in form and subject matter — so there are abstract and figurative works; there are paintings, textiles and sculptures; there are works by men and women; works inspired by political events, local traditions, and personal experiences; there are nods to science and mythology; references to the city and the village,” Shoufani explains. “We hope there is something of interest to everyone.”

The judging panel consists of six acclaimed poets: Naomi Shihab Nye, Hala Alyan, Raymond Antrobus, Tishani Doshi, Asmaa’ Azaizah, and Golan Haji. Entries must be submitted before the end of September and winners will be announced early in December. Visit the Barjeel Art Foundation website for more details.

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