Theodor W. Adorno's by now infamous dictum that “to write lyric poetry after Auschwitz is barbaric” still weighs heavily on various modern and contemporary representations of war and violence, especially in the Arab world, where the legacy of the Holocaust, entangled with differing or dueling national claims to Israel/Palestine, exerts enormous existential pressure. This essay draws on an eclectic but substantial number of poems composed by canonical contemporary figures such as Nizār Qabbānī, Adonis, and Mahmoud Darwish to demonstrate how Arab poets strategically (even routinely) conjure up the muse of impossibility of poetry, in the wake of every act of violence committed against Arab nations since 1948, to produce poetry. Because its veritable possibility has been stymied by historical violence, Arabic poetry today is largely postelegiac and intensely metapoetic in a very specific way: it is an accentuated yet attenuated form of poetry that simultaneously bears the burden of representation but never ceases to undermine any form of consolation; it is a poetry that emerges from the full consciousness of its impossibility or, worse still, its futility, if not its ineluctable complicity in Arab suffering.
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Nouri Gana; War, Poetry, Mourning: Darwish, Adonis, Iraq. Public Culture 1 January 2010; 22 (1): 33–65. doi: https://doi.org/10.1215/08992363-2009-015
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