Adnan Husein Ahmed:Between the technicalities......

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    Adnan Husein Ahmed:Between the technicalities......

    مُساهمة  Admin في الخميس أبريل 25, 2013 3:30 pm

    Basim Furat: Between the technicalities of the open-ended poem and the structure of focalisation



    Basim Furat belongs to the generation of poets of the 1990s of the previous century. A champion of the artistic adventures that demarcated the poets of that period, who, living through wars and calamities, witnessed the formidable forces of change as they shook the very foundations of their cultural and intellectual heritage. This is acknowledged by some of the most known articulators of this movement who also affirm an ambience of surrealism in Iraq which not only is the exclusive outcome of the aftermath of the second gulf war, but one that can be traced back for at least two decades. So, a kind of ‘winged’ words and metaphors you would not need to ascend to the heights of this strange, “exotic” reality. Nor would you have to be a surrealist to do justice in projecting what you see.

    However, despite the failure of the Iraqi movement of literary criticism to do justice in giving the poetry of the nineties what it deserves of constructive criticism and study, there are still names of poets who have been able to have an enduring presence. The effect of that was shown in the celebration of their poetry in new literary circles with new visions that tended to show appreciation for new movements away from other dominant discourses. The literary scene in the nineties saw numerous names arising with their unique experiences of which the name Basim Furat is a prominent one. I chose his poetry, not only given the fact that he signifies all the manifold facets of the poetry of the nineties, but also because of what it exhibits of intellectual, artistic and aesthetic dimensions which, I believe, is worthy of a fair deal of analysis and study.


    The mechanism of Expression and wordiness in “The Cooing I Bind”

    Basim Furat’s experience rests against a backdrop of personal memory that is fuelled with an intense sense of the self and that solely typifies his first collection of poems – “The Cooing I Bind”. The ego is embodied through a series of mirror-like images that unreservedly reflect a personal concern. This itself emanates from a deep philosophical outlook that attempts to rouse the inner self to give answers to the inexplicable that preoccupies his poetic self.

    However, for those who discern the sensitivity of Basim Furat and his responses to the physical beauty of women find no problem to elicit the reasons behind his hyper, almost Sufi obsession with beauty; an obsession that transcends the natural simply to be rocketed out to float freely in the orbit of fantasy.

    Therefore, the “I” of the poet is, naturally and beyond doubt, an overstated one. And, not the disillusioned, but only the gifted free poets who are able to venture into unfamiliar spheres thinking that they can re-forge, or restore an anxious world back to harmony. To them, the world is perceived through rainbow-shaded glasses; they, also, as some would say, can see the unseen. A license to break grammatical rules, if such a thing exists at all, must be an asset they greatly treasure. Still, nonetheless, social sanctions and rules, too, of whatever kind seem to be broken by them.

    Given this, it would not be surprising that Basim Furat commences his first collection of poems with a poem entitled, “Your Ashes, O self, is a Spell”. If the ashes of the burnt-up self are a spell, is not the self at the same time at a moment when it’s most flamed and flared up with its own self-image. The poetic “I” is a self-celebrating creative “I” that can construct what can’t be constructed by others. It is never contented to orbit the sphere of its own self, be it is surrounded by an overwhelming aura that catches the eyes of the most indifferent. For the certainty of fame can’t mix with the doubt of ignorance and neglect.

    Blessed are my inclinations
    And, venerated are those thoughtless deeds,
    Which are made my sin
    Let the sea drown in my hallucination
    Let the desert be lost in my palms
    And no matter what you do,
    Your beauty is
    My devotion’s own

    In the poem “Suicide”, the woman for whom the poet is suicidal hides behind a kind of mask of grammatical shifts; for as much as she’s a (she), as in “And heavens fracture / Because of her pagan silence”, she’s also a (you), like in “And the angles supplicate for the sadness of your eyes”. This change in the degree to which the presence of the beloved is abstracted comes as a response to the act of uncurtailed expression; where the stream of thoughts and words unconsciously shows no interest in abiding by the strict mental guidelines that we naturally use to deal with what’s real. Succumbing to that, dealing with questions in a poem becomes harder as ideas follow a course conducted by the very divergences of an imagination that’s already out of control. Therefore, the poems in Basim Furat’s first collection seem to miss a binding form, or to be precise, if the form ever exists, it’s an amorphous one, dispersed in all directions and embodied in questions looking for definite, comforting answers. He, rather, should have “focalised” through his poems, and not be lost in muddles of slips and the intense adoration, which itself exists to enunciate the situation of being trapped by her beautiful love.

    I might be the last to return
    From the labyrinths of her wilderness
    I nurse my suicide
    As it battles the majestic wound of a question
    Why do I love you?

    The poem could have ended with this – in his own words - majestic question. Though, he proceeds with a captivating poetic imagery that fails, despite its beauty, to salvage it out of its predicament. Does he love her because the fingers of his soul were caressing the flowing stream of her hair? (notice the superb imagery, depiction and anthropomorphism in the metaphor where the soul has fingers caressing the hair of the beloved, and which he is willingly led to the edge of suicide). And if it was one of the expressive poetic imageries, “And no matter what you do/your beauty is/My devotion’s own” in “Your Ashes, O Self, A Spell”, it reminds us of a saying by Haroun Al-Rasheed where he says to a wind-driven cloud, “Go, wherever you like, for all that you incur belongs to me.”

    The imagery reminisces the ambiences of Nizar Al-Kabbani and his poetic surroundings in which he talks about concerns, feelings, anxiety and madness, especially when he wonders: “What am I to give you, my anguish, faith, nausea?.” But, Basim Furat rises above this territory of expression and persists in delving into exaggerated imagery and description. Especially when he says,

    I’ve chanted your name
    On the count of grains of sand
    And, of drops of water.
    To the rhythm of the beating of hearts
    Alas, all my chanting was declined

    We are all well aware that such chanting is rationally impossible, but, it is believable as far as the poetic imagination is concerned, which it employs to articulate, on the one hand, its oneness and indulgence in the body of the beloved, and its annihilation in her soul, on the other.

    In the poem entitled “A Warm lesson at The End of Love”, there’s an image so stunningly beautiful that I am in no doubt that most of Basim’s fellow poets envy him for it, and I myself confess, with all neutrality, that he excelled a great deal that it humbles me when he says,

    And I redirected the course of rivers
    And made them flow from your fingertips
    And pour back into them

    The poet should have persisted along the lines of the unique setting created by the above lines and not let it slip away, to move into the general,

    I told you that
    The gods of Sumer, Uruk, Aridu, Babylon,
    Nineveh, Assyria, Athens and Rome
    Want to bow before you
    And for your holiness offerings be made
    But, you refused

    In this, there’s a clear use of the sanctity of religious terminology that rebels against the context of history. The terms, however, successfully retain their connotations while clothed in a new literary garment where they acquire a mythological vigour.

    And my mind discarded the thought
    That of love I had countless a verse
    Of them I recall
    The fall of stars from between your fingers,
    The flow of my days
    Along the path of your righteousness
    And, making the crowding angels hail you
    Picking up the words that you drop
    Blown into the spirit of tune
    Words turn into flutes
    Giving being a spark
    And bathing with your singing voice


    It must be pointed out that Basim Furat could triumphantly pacify the religious terms and make use of their spheres of meaning in a poem modern in style. He does not invoke ritual with all its obsoleteness, but rather it becomes mythologized and only made to be recalled by the reader having become cleansed of all that is unrelated to creativity and artiness. Furthermore, he utilizes religious supplication after making it one with the poem. It becomes inseparable from the “expressive”, and not the “structural” bearing of the poem. This impediment is sensed throughout the poems of his first collection which leaves them unfinished for reasons of wordiness and never the opposite, be it concision or briefness. Numerous poems exist, however, whose culmination is nothing short of perfect, or complete, where any modification would throw the piece into imbalance, transmitting to us a feeling that the poem is born of perfection and no final touches are needed.

    The poem could have ended when “Rivers erupt from her fingertips”, which is a poetic expression that strikes the reader and opens up his ability to assimilate new imagery that is not, at least, clichéd and altogether exhausted.

    In the two poems of “Slender Days” and “The Pairing of Trees”, Basim Furat surpasses this obstacle and we see him sketching successful ends to his poems. In “Slender Days”, the poem concludes with a difficult question – as in “Suicide” – but here it is coupled with a reasonable answer, “The embodiment of all women, you….a storm”, which reinforces the harmony of the poem, and makes its inner structure more robust giving an acceptable excuse for his long-windedness about the woman he loved deeply, and obsessed himself with throughout the sixty seven lines preceding – or leading up to – this questioning.

    In “The Pairing of Trees”, his experience is shown, not in sketching triumphant conclusions, but in phrasing an opening line that ignites in the imagination of the reader a glittery flame that lights the darkness of the spirit and uncovers before the eye a mine of enthralling poetic images and similes. I.e., the poet leads the reader into the realm of the poem, and registers him into it with great haste, which is dependant on the amazement and shock that are the result of the efficacy of the initial image in the opening lines. The first image in time breeds a series of images that rival the preliminary one in effect. In “The Pairing of Trees”, Basim Furat says,

    Rain is sleeping in your shirt
    Moon pronouncing your name
    Autumn passing hurriedly by
    Through your fingers
    Leaving my failures prostrating before your lips

    And if we inspect this poem closely, we find that it does not lack an erotic dimensions, and that a sensual image – beautiful as it is – dominates it completely, depriving it from touring the horizons of thoughtfulness and spirituality with which poem could have been enriched.

    Your warm winter
    And your lapis lazuli sighs
    Quivering before the neighing of my tongue
    And your navel at the moment
    My shivering sighs lean upon it

    Given this type of writing by Basim Furat, it would be safe to say, it cannot be labelled poetry in the strict sense of the term; it is not purely a poem, but rather a “hybridized” piece of writing in which different imageries are wedded: the predominantly religious image, and the poetic image with its erotic undertones. Still in the same poem,

    From my hallucination
    I see angels lined up
    Prostrating before you

    However, hybridization does not stop at this ‘marriage’ of imageries but it transcends yet other types of hybridization of other literary and artistic forms of expression like novel writing, movies and photography. And due to the fact that Basim Furat is a professional photographer, we see that the role the technicalities of the lens and its uses play in depicting a lot of unusual scenes that in reality seek to portray the horizontal movement forward of time.

    The poem “The Pairing of Trees” thus concludes with a successful and powerful end.

    Carrying your love,
    A crucifix to show around
    Will you kindly nail me to it
    So, at peace I shall be

    The fact that this end – of other ends in other poems – is a satisfactory one can be attributed to the storytelling mode which he employs in the poem from beginning to end. The finale in this case becomes a melodramatic one that is lead up to, and while the reader is poised to living the awaited moment of “being nailed” to the cross, he or she is only made increasingly more attached to the poem. So the moment of being nailed with all its horrific connotations, anticipated by the reader as the poem reads on, becomes the perfect, in a way consoling, end.


    In the poem “The Cooing I Bind”, which appears in a collection of poems bearing the same title, Basim Furat’s experience in writing is manifested in his adoption of a pervasively re-affirmative style, or use of a kind of mechanism of repetition. For example,

    I’m not a God
    To love you as should be

    Which one encounters upon the poem’s commencing and end. In “The Man From South” and “Shrines”, there’s another distinct form of a type of short poems that depend in their composition on shining glitters that strike the reader as stunning, or at least surprising. It is something that can be likened to a sort of sudden, momentary enlightenment which throws the person experiencing it into “Nirvanic” realms and worlds of fantasy.

    Because you opened you dress
    Stars dispersed into the sea

    This style betrays affinities with numerous condensed short stories in which the poetic image is moulded in so much the same way as when a sculptor, beating away with his hammer, tries to fashion a work of art out of a piece of rock. In this case it is the task of the sculptor-poet to mould a poetic image out of stones of crude, formless words and thoughts.


    Manifestations of Artistic Reductionism in “The Autumn of Minarets”

    Despite the short space of time between the publishing of his first and second collection of poems, Basim Furat demonstrates a leap not only in his use of literary tools, but also in his artistic vision and imagination altogether. In his second collection, it is evident that the poet is more able to exert, as well as maintain, control of the text he is composing and so he is less absorbed or taken in by the feasible inclination to wordiness. The poems here are in a way clipped of all things unnecessary to the messages they are intended for, including the artistic quality they are written to display. So, Basim Furat in this instance is more of a “reductionist” artist who carts off parasitic formations and rids the poem of incoherent, superfluous motifs that are never intentional in a work for art’s sake. This is the result of an intensive, long process of trying to assimilate into the true ambience of the poem; something only comes about by practicing its unique and specific rituals.

    It is true that, in today’s ever changing ‘automatic’ age, a poem does not voluntarily come to the poet, but rather the poet needs to get up and walk towards it. Today, there’s not as much room for meditation and reflection as the case was a century back. Therefore, a poem today is, in one way or another, different from a poem written, say, sixty years ago. Basim Furat appears to have realized ten years ago, by the time he left Iraq to Jordan, the importance of the “Informative Poem”, that draws on extensive reading of resources, books and articles, excitingly enriching the literary outcome with new and evocative material and styles.

    A proper space for the writer to wander with his imagination comes only once space- transforming thoughts are called upon with all their mythic, symbolic, historical and mythological associations. And if we look closely in his first collection, “The Cooing I Bind”, we are able to see unintentional informative passing remarks that still relate to the context of the poem. However, in his second collection, “The Autumn of Minarets”, there is an awareness of the role the inclusion of elements that speak of his deep knowledge of history, sociology, folklore, and the geography of the hometown - Karbala’a - and the traditional, mythological and religious dimensions it implies. This knowledge, in turn, is used skillfully, simply given his ability to speak to its deep essence and true spirit, and the realization of the gleaming core is how this tradition, and knowledge of it, is kept alive.

    The last ten years of Basim Furat’s life is indeed a turn in his intellectual life, and despite all the books that he was able to read inside of Iraq, they were not as formidable as the invaluable resources he could get his hand on out side of it. It is something that led him to think in a whole new way with the experiences of freedom, renewal, and the death of the inner, psychic policeman that terrorized him for a long time. The mere fleeing of Iraq during the rule of the tyrannical regime signals the victory of the Iraqi artist and writer over the indoctrination of the idea of the “executioner”, and the shadow of the grave in those damned worlds that shackled our thinking, and took away our freedom for over three decades. All in all, if Basim Furat was not able to leave Iraq, the chances of him writing poems of the like in ”The Autumn of Minarets”, let alone getting them published, would have been incredibly slim.

    In the poem “The Autumn of Minarets…Spring of Darkness; our blood!” there are eleven references that, in many ways, symbolize the breadth of Basim Furat’s knowledge of the history and geography of Karbala’a. Some of the things and places he alludes to cannot pass without some footnote explanation. He, despite that, demonstrates great skill in employing those terms so they ultimately become part of the inner fabric of the poems.

    These eleven allusions are: Khambaba, Karbaieloo, Al-Hallaj, A-Haramayn Square, Al-Qibla Gate, Tell Al-Zainabiyah, Al-Abbas Street, Al-salalma Gate, Sidrat Al-Montaha, Kafa’a Al-Abbas, Al-hijr Al-Karbalaiyee. And, we must remember that they were not plucked out of thin air, but each name is indicative and is a pointer through which the poet tries to appeal to the reader’s memory and to bring them to the poem’s reality through mytho-poetic, epical means. For the name Khambaba, for example, is bound to recall to the reader’s mind The Epic Of Gilgamesh, and at the same time make us think of Ankido, Ishtar, and the Bush of Immortality, all of which are included in his poem “Signs” in his first collection,

    I told you:
    The bush is a lie, Gilgamesh!
    And to journey is
    Your chronic mistake
    Why do you go on?

    This is not only a poetic rendering, but a philosophical one too, that illustrates a questioning of the wisdom that lies at the heart of this deep and subtle poetic image. Works like these aim to annihilate or transcend the individual frame of mind that the writer of the ancient epic intends to imparts, and exchange it with a version that is the work of popular collective imagination and in which local elements are infused into the folk understanding of it. Books like the Quran and The Arabian Nights broke, indefinitely, local bounds and became part of the universal psyche.

    The name of Al-Hallaj, at least to the Arab reader, calls upon the horrific image of the executioner rolling the head off the still body within a fraction of a second. It also brings to mind that voice of the other; the subjugated, the repressed and the dishonoured when the head becomes the price paid for the right to be different, or to express oneself freely. As for the other names, they are of places of religious significance to the “Shiite” Muslims of Iraq and they are merged with the streams of thought in the poems, something that rescued it from falling into the trap of sectarianism.

    It has become of increasingly great importance among Iraqi literary circles to avoid being labelled biased for an ethnic, religious or racial group, especially the times of calamities in the eighties and nineties of the previous century. Sectarianism became a charge only the few who have an open-minded outlook on the world that does not heed to separatist classifications could escape. And of this minority were the poets who could also escape the despicable dualism of idolising oneself on the one hand, or severely flogging it, on the other. For neither excessive adoration and pride help one become a better writer, nor does the beating-up of self make one more imaginative. The intellectual and artistic insularity perpetuated as a result seals off all windows of inspiration and so the poetry becomes treatises idealising religious misery, even lamenting it, but never growing out of it. By this idealised misery I mean the thoughtlessly blind commitment to the superficial, surface matters of religion, while the much needed esoteric fundamentals of spirituality are made obsolete.

    As we spoke of allusions to local places and names in “Ashudu Al-Hadeel”, in “The Howl of the Fox”, there are six of them. These are: Al-Housayniyah River, Al-Tuff, Al-Alkami River, the Prison of Al-Sindi, Al-Hurr, and Al-Makam. They are references the poet weaved into the inner tapestry of the poems, and through which he could introduce his readers to new spaces where they are reminded of the famous battle of Al-Tuff; the bravery of Al-Hurr being its major hero. It also leads the reader to the shrines of Kaff Al-Abbas. Also, the various nuances in his allusions to Al-Houssayniyah River, which is footnoted as “evaporating on the body of the city of Karbala’a”, or as in one of the poems,

    When Al-Houssayniyah River
    Nailed to a cross
    Passes by. Hanging
    Over the wind
    Of people of the north

    Both successful similes hover in the orbit of fantasy in which Basim invariably attempts to takes the reader’s imagination, and away from absorption in experiential reality and throws it into a climax of surrealism encircled by eye-catching magical halos that become wider and wider as we read on.

    Folk imagery has its own ‘surrealism’ too. Al-Alkami River, flowing through Karbala’a according to the poet’s accompanying endnote, “redirects its flow in protest for the killing of the Imam Hussein Ibn Ali Ibn Abi Talib.” Now, even if the river does not in reality decides to flow along a new stream, common collective consciousness is very likely to result in people believing it merely given the almost divine status the immediate descendants of the prophet of Islam enjoy among the majority of Muslims in Iraq. The utilisation of the Battle of Al-Tuff could on its own suffice to inflame the poem and call on necessary ingredients of success solely given the dramatic overtones of its style. And, in spite of the sheer size of this Karbalaian tragedy that has shaken the human conscience since it happened, popular and folk imagery has not left it untouched. We see the catastrophic scenes of this battle, therefore, rehashed and reshaped to the degree that they become blended with the psychology of the Iraqi, Shiite person.

    The last poem in this collection that I would like to spend time on is “1967-3-1”, which can be seen as a personal memoir but in the form of a poem. It is to the sharp, intensified language of this poem that its success can attributed. It is through this use of words that he was able to compress his bitter life into forty one lines filled with meaningful, expressive imagery that interrogates pain at moments when its most commanding. For even

    The river entering the city
    Disguised as a child
    Is raped by the soldiers

    As also the end line of the poem “Embraces Ending Only by Bombs”, which is – too – a very successful one, affirms by what counters doubt with certainty that Basim Furat is able to manipulate his literary work as he pleases and leading him to realms of scandal, surprise and pleasure, and never the opposite.




      الوقت/التاريخ الآن هو السبت نوفمبر 17, 2018 10:35 am