Huda Fakhreddine

Arabic Modernism's Other Tradition

The language of poetry: not a body but a wound

A collage by Adunis (image from

This poem (and every reading of it) is an ongoing exposure, opening up, and challenging of our expectations of poetry in Arabic. After having dislodged Arabic poetry from its rootedness in verse (meter and rhyme) in previous experiments, especially in his 1964 collection The Songs of Mihyar the Damascene, Adunis here drastically expands the limits of the poem. 

The earth was not a body      it was a wound
          How is it possible to travel between body and wound?
          How is it possible to settle?
The wound began to transform into parents and the question to turn into space 
        Come out into the space, Child.

This is the opening of Adunis’s monumental prose poem Singluar in Plural Form&n

A poem in Arabic, not an Arabic Poem

Unsi al-Hajj (image from

This is an Arabic prose poem from the Lebanese poet Unsi al-Hajj’s (1935–2014) collection The Severed Head (1963). Many will take issue with calling it a prose poem in the first place. In its form and layout on the page, it does not correspond to what we know the prose poem to be in English or French. Nevertheless, it is an Arabic prose poem for two reasons: it claims and insists on being a “poem” and it is written without any metrical consideration whatsoever.