THE WORLD MIRROR / WINDOWS
Poetry is not faring well in Egypt, because publishing houses aren’t releasing poetry books and readers are few and far between. Poet Abir Abd al-Aziz decided to intervene with an impressive campaign: Every month this year, she launches a new happening, designed to lead poetry into the minds of Egyptians. It all began with a tree of poetry…
Hanna Hirvonen and Shurouk Hammoud, text
Milla Selin, translation
In January 2017, a tree decorated with postage stamps appeared in Cairo. Poems and paintings had been printed on the stamps. The tree of poetry was designed by the Egyptian artists Maher Daniel and Sameer Abd al-Ghani together with sculptor Jalal Jomaa. The tree was made of steel wire – and its branches hung with 150 poetry stamps. Each stamp included a painting and a poem from either a classic or contemporary poet.
The poetry tree was the beginning of a year-long campaign. The ‘Support poetry’ campaign introduces a new happening, intended to make poetry better known, at the beginning of each month. During the campaign months, poetry stamps have been seen also in galleries and distributed at bookstores.
Shareef Mahmoud and Ahmad Soliman are the artists behind the poetry stamps, together with graphic designer Bahjat Othman. The stamps have been distributed on the streets and in bookstores.
According to the poet leading the campaign, Abir Abd al-Aziz, the work towards poetry in Egypt is based on the passion artists have for the marginal literary genre. The year-long campaign, where 12 ideas to promote poetry are produced, received no financial support.
All artists actively taking part, painters and writers for example, are Egyptian. They have donated their works. “We intend to bring poetry and other arts together – and of course poetry and people!”, says Abir Abd al-Aziz “There is a force for change in poems, we believe that poetry can have an impact on how we view different things”, she continues.
One important collaboration was with the al-Rawafed Publishing House: they distributed the stamps at international book fairs. Posters for the campaign have been put up at local libraries.
Abir Abd al-Aziz represents the organization “Self For Poetesses”, known for its promotion of poetry. Now she is in charge of the campaign all year. What urges al-Aziz to work with poetry? “I hope that the lost meaning of poetry would be rediscovered. In the past poetry was important in the same way as the surrounding nature, for example. I would like to get back to the point where poetry is a part of everyday life.”