Abu Athera, Said Salman
Tribal poetry of the Tarabin and Ḥuwayṭāt tribes and its relationship to that of neighbouring tribes.
PhD thesis, University of Glasgow.
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Popular poetry, under various names, is composed in many of the Arabic speaking countries. Bedouin poetry is an important element in the daily life of any Arab tribal society, and the poet is highly respected as he is considered to be the voice of the tribe. Poetry is composed and recited by poets on every occasion and covers every aspect of tribal society. It reveals their feelings and needs, reminds them of their history and depicts their culture. It is the most usual form of entertainment for any gathering of men in a majlis, and at wedding parties poetry is recited in the evenings, for at least three days; for several hours, poets chant and recite poems to accompany the men's dance. They celebrate the deeds of warrior ancestors, battle victories and love.
In the past, this sort of poetry was not written down, it was inherited orally. We have very little of it, and what we have is often altered or incomplete, as is common in undocumented cultures. Some poets have written or dictated their poems, but few have been published. Occasionally, poems are heard recited among other tribes, due to the importance of their subject matter - perhaps criticising the authorities, or giving a political point of view.
Some of this poetry, if it had been composed early this century, might have led to fighting between tribes, as in the case of the insults that were traded in the poetry about Attubayg, in which war of words the authorities of Jordan and Saudi Arabia were obliged to intervene.
Neither the authorities nor the universities are interested in this poetry, partly because the dialects make it difficult to understand, and partly because the rules of censorship prevent the publication of anything contentious.
There are two elements which will endanger the survival of this poetry; sedentarisation and education. Sedentarisation has a physical and psychological effect on poets. Away from the desert, living in houses with doors that close, people have less contact with each other than they used to. There are fewer discussions and so less poetry (women's social life has suffered even more than men's: see the comments of Dihma Faris in Chapter 2). Education has an impact on tribal poetry because children are taught classical poetry at school, by teachers who are mainly from an urban background. They would not be likely to encourage a child to compose popular poetry, and might even humiliate him for his lack of culture. These negative attitudes do nothing to help the survival of this form of poetry.
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