القهر والصمود في شعر مظفر النواب / Oppression and Defiance in the Poetry of Muzaffar al-Nawwab
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Alif: Journal of Comparative Poetics
[Reacting against political repression and flagrant abuses of social and human rights, Muzaffar al-Nawwab, the Arab world's poet provocateur, intervenes on behalf of the oppositional forces and the dispossessed Arab masses whose cause he champions. Al-Nawwab's poems, which circulate mainly in alternative channels, have gained enormous popularity for their transgressive and subversive discourse. Through satirical portraits of despotic Arab rulers, visual humor akin to the art of the caricature, brazen epithets, shocking images, autobiographical digressions, modulations of tone and tempo, and sudden shifts from the elegiac to the jovial to the raging mode, from the elegantly lyrical to the prosaic, and at times, blatantly obscene diction, al-Nawwab deflates the image of the rulers, unfolds the archives of repression, and holds out a mirror for rulers and ruled to see their Kafkaesque reality. Less known in the Arab world are al-Nawwab's vernacular poems, written in the dialect of southern Iraq, though they enjoy great popularity in Iraq. For shortly after the 1958 Revolution, al-Nawwab revitalized vernacular Iraqi poetry, effecting a development that is analogous to the rise of the "free verse" movement in fusha (classical Arabic). Al-Nawwab's early vernacular poems were marked by graceful lyricism, startling and vivid images, and by the speaker's voice, often that of a peasant woman who expresses her yearning for her lover in highly evocative and nuanced diction. This phase in al-Nawwab's poetry gave way to a new trend when the counterrevolution launched a campaign of terror to arrest the radical changes in Iraqi society. In his new poem the speaker is still a peasant woman, this time outraged by the murder of her lover, husband, or brother at the hands of the forces of reaction. The speaker's voice, now elegiac and heavy with grief, now rising with pride and defiance (vowing revolutionary vengeance) assumes an epic grandeur and creates a crescendo of emotional power. Perhaps al-Nawwab's most celebrated vernacular poem is "Al-Bara'ah" (The Recantation), composed in prison following the 1963 coup d'état. Set in two sections and cast as a dramatic monologue with two speakers, a mother and a sister, the poem is a powerful appeal to political prisoners not to yield to pressure and disavow their political affiliations. It is partly a lament, partly a political manifesto, partly a nursery rhyme, partly a traditional discourse, partly a document of human rights. The autobiographical element in the poem was later evoked in al-Nawwab's famous Nocturnal Strings. An analysis of the poem reveals the cultural codes that it deploys; the rhetorical devices, sound patterns, and visual images that it weaves into an intricate tapestry; the intertextual relations it embodies; the concrete historical and cultural relationships in which it is inscribed; as well as the social life which the poem has assumed as a powerful statement against human rights abuses.]
(1993). القهر والصمود في شعر مظفر النواب / Oppression and Defiance in the Poetry of Muzaffar al-Nawwab. Alif: Journal of Comparative Poetics, 95–125.
Al-Nawwab, Muzaffar, et al.
"القهر والصمود في شعر مظفر النواب / Oppression and Defiance in the Poetry of Muzaffar al-Nawwab." Alif: Journal of Comparative Poetics, no. 13, 1993, pp. 95–125.