Arab poets in general, and Palestinian poets in particular, have radically transformed the sound structures of their poems in order to modernize poetic forms by turning to free verse and prose poems. Through these forms, poets, not “the sea,” stand sovereign over rhythms. Over the past seven decades, Arabic poems have become ever more silent, marked by ever more irregular rhythms. This book, an ethnography of “literary” transformation, investigates how forms of ethics, politics, epistemologies, and imaginaries have led to this prevailing silence in contemporary Arabic poetry. Drawing on interviews with forty-seven poets, including six women, the book shows how poets' emerging “silence” reflects contradictions and ambiguities of secular formations in modernity as movements in the sounds of rhythms, as well as beyond them. It argues that poetic forms and forms of life are inseparable and makes a number of assumptions about poetry, poets, and poetic form. It looks at the current Palestinian poetry, which is dominated by three forms: a traditional ode in use for more than 1,500 years and two modern arrivals, free verse and prose poetry.
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