| 14 Rhymed German Pieces by Anis Hamadeh (2010) |
The setting is at court in Baghdad around the year 1000. Fourteen poets compete for the title of the Poet of the Year, each one has about five minutes to speak.
Qais bin Abbas opens the competition. He sings of love and wine in the tradition of Abu Nuwas and discloses to the audience that he is in love with one of the seven lady-poets. But he does not reveal who it is, because the time isn't right (today there is no hope - says my horoscope). He shows how love pain is still useful, as it provides inspiration for poetry.
Laila as-Sa'ida is next, she acknowledges Qais' abilities, but warns that if someone finds out about the woman it will no longer be a secret and Qais will be mocked at. Laila has been a poet since her early youth, she transforms everyday life into poetry like an alchemist. She has the "malaka", the routine of creation, and says that the elixir of alchemy is not material and cannot be apprehended by greedy people.
Zahid the Ascet is a pious man. He accuses Qais of drinking and looking at Fatima's legs. Zahid read quran and hadith when he was young and started living for the hereafter, praising the one Lord by fasting and praying. If the audience understood the secret of the 0 and the 1, they would follow his example, he assumes.
Fatima the Shining is a scientist from Isfahan and in Baghdad for a one-year-study. She lauds Persian science and reminds the audience of Sibawaih and the Barmakids. After telling the story of how Iran changed with Islam she acknowledges the speeches of Qais, Laila, and Zahid, almost reaching a singing tone. She ends by mentioning all the sciences that she knows by heart and claims that this meeting also is a science: adab, literature.
Blind Hanan is not upset about Fatima's memory capabilities, although this should be her domain as a blind person. She says that she prefers the spoken word to the written word. So she receives travelers at her home and hears them out to get inspired. Words in a book are fixed, she argues, while spoken words can be directed. (When no one knows about the end - we call that an experiment.) While finishing she notices something going on around her, as if the lights were dimmed.
The Masked Poet appears and makes people wonder who he is and why he masked himself, changed his voice, and dimmed the lights. He talks about the riddle and its solution. People are not interested in obvious things, but in the secret. (Not the knower's in the flow - but the one who wants to know.) This motif can even be found in adab, namely the stories of people who are rescued after a calamity.
Beautiful Dunya came from Egypt and is not happy being a beauty symbol and adored all the time. (In measures I'd appreciate it - but not so exaggerated.) Her name means this world as opposed to the hereafter. Beauty is neither an achievment nor a virtue, she argues, and warns of the next speaker, who praises youth, which has the same qualities.
The Younger Khalil responds to Dunya that she might be a little too controlled, typical for grown-ups. Old people always wish to be young again, therefore he can hardly be wrong. Khalil is a secretary at court and copies letters. His nights he spends writing poetry. (Among the world's most boring things - is how the old spend their evenings.)
Anis the Entertainer explains his name as the friend who is good company and drives away sorrow. He mentions that even the prophet Muhammad had a good laugh from time to time. Once he laughed so much that everybody around could see his back tooth and at another time he had to lean to a wall for laughing. Anis remembers his granduncle, from whom he had learned (like the spark jumps off the stone - be the spark, you, on your own) and who was a friend of Abu'l Faraj al-Isfahani's, who compiled 25 volumes of the Book of Songs, proving the significance of entertainment.
The Furious Harb is a proud warrior. Riddles and entertainment will be of no use, he roars, when the enemy arrives. Life is a struggle and without the sword the empire would never have emerged. Byzanthium would have won (and al-Mansur - would have died poor - Baghdad he'd never have founded - where this story here is grounded).
Salima the Sound opposes Harb sharply and refuses his metaphor of a cleaning rain. War will only bring pain and violence never serves peace. People need an enemy to fight things they dislike in themselves. She gives the example of the first Muslims in Mecca and how they had been assaulted. She summarizes: if you want to live in peace, share your peace with others, please.
The Wise Latifa is an elderly lady from Andalusia. She talks about how wide Muslim civilization reaches, from Cordobá to Baghdad and beyond. She is a medium and sees things in her trance. While explaining her technique she sees the masked poet in a vision and how he is wearing the caliph's shoes. She also alludes to Qais and his loved one and says that the solution is soon to come.
Luqa the Traveler recites the earliest Arabic poetry, the quest in the desert. In a similar way, he says, he is on a quest, traveling the world. He saw the Francs in Franconia, where he worked as a doctor, and was a diplomat for an African king. He joined a caravan and sailed to sea. Now he is a geographer at court, creating maps. His account is passionate and full of adventures.
Khulud the Eternal originally intended to talk about the remaining and the passing, but now found out that she is the one of Qais' dreams. Latifa's allusions finally got her on the track. She does not know what to say, but she is not embarrassed, as she could feel it all the time ... She then mentions all the poets who spoke before her and closes with: only in your memory - we poets live in eternity.
YouTube trailer with music, drawings, photos, and 14 voices: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yWsnr4ygcro&feature=youtube_gdata