آية :جيم / The Verse of Jim



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دراز, سيزا قاسم; Kassem-Draz, Ceza

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Research Article

Publication Title

Alif: Journal of Comparative Poetics

Publication Date





[This long poem by Hasan Tilib, written in early 1988, represents a peculiar type of text that floods the beholder with a torrent of questions rather than quench his thirst for answers. It destroys and builds, enhances spirit as well as consciousness, deflates sentimentalism and hyperbole, tends towards tearing the veils, plunges into the essence of things and poses the primordial questions. The Verse of Jim (Jim is the name of the fifth letter in the Arabic alphabet) is an exploration of all the levels of our knowledge -- and ignorance -- of language: it explores the relation between sound and sense, between signifier and signified, between different signs intermingling in the network of the poem, between the speaker and his word, and between the word and the world. The poem is divided into five parts that escalate from the first relation to the last: 1. Sound and sense:"The Jim Predominates". (115 verses) 2. Signifier and signified:"The Jim Succeeds". (464 verses) 3. The Poem as network of signs:"The Jim Strands". (165 verses) 4. The Speaker, the word and the hearer:"The Jim Bolts" (260 verses) 5. The Word and the world:"The Jim wounds" (38 verses). The particular fascination that lies at the core of this poem is generated by a number of exploitations of rhetorical devices, tending towards the creation of a new language: a kind of magical language. Among these devices allegory is the dominant one. But allegory here is of a type that has not been used predominantly in poetry since both tenor and vehicle are linguistic entities, for in this poem the signifier is the vehicle and the signified the tenor. Thus the signifier becomes an independent object that acquires a life of its own by virtue of the materiality of the sound, and this is rendered by the recurrent use of the letter jim. The poem The Verse of Jim is entirely built on the recurrence of one letter, and this repetition from beginning to end tends towards the creation of a special consciousness of sound patterns as well as a numbing of the semiotic process, the process of decoding the signified through the perception of the signifier. It is significant here to notice that this activity of repeating a sound over and over again has a ludic function. Play with sound enhances our perception of language and gives it an opacity that is a necessary condition of poetic language. From the very start of the poem we are placed in a system of analogies, in which we are confronted with a mirror image of the Koran on one side and all of the Arabic language on the other. But this image is a reversed image: the sura is transformed into a verse and the language of dad is transformed into the language of jim. We thus enter into the possible world of a new language, a language where the code is not a given but has to be created by the hearer at every step and where one letter becomes the whole of the alphabet and where the unity of the language is a mirror of the unity of the world. The Verse of Jim links us in a way to the world of experimental art since it adopts the techniques of painters like Kandinsky and sculptors like Giacometti who started from the materiality of line and colors or bronze and stone to extract meaning from these materials, since meaning is not a given but an aim and a discovery. The world is not outside the self of the artist but within him; it is not a static reality but a dynamic one that is in continual motion. Jim, the magic letter, is in constant transformation: it moves from the tangible to the intangible, from the human to the vegetal and the mineral, it is a signifier without signified like the mysterious letters of the Koran at the opening of some of the suras which have not been interpreted but remain one of the mysteries of the Koranic text. But above all this poem is a model of play, linking it with a long tradition that joins the Fatrassiers of the Middle Ages and reaches into the experimentation of the French Oulipo group. Play is the soul of art though it has been depreciated by established "serious" critical theory, be it in the West or the East.]

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