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Bahrain: Poetry Slammed!

This week Bahraini bloggers express their concerns about the country's electronic identity cards. With the school year about to begin, education is a hot topic. Be careful what you write when you send a job application – you might unwittingly become one of the new superheroes, The Employables! We finish with some strong opinions regarding the literary scene in Bahrain.

Too smart, or not so smart?

The Smart Card (an electronic identity card) is being phased in in Bahrain, but a number of bloggers have expressed their reservations about the scheme. Ammar thinks the project is doomed for failure:

So we started this Smart Card concept and we're full blast trying to get everyone to carry one. FOR WHAT?! No one has a reader yet, and the card is useless to anyone NOT carrying one; there's no address or anything on the front, and even the driving license part of it is not acknowledged by the traffic police. WTF?! Second of all, the process to actually get it is SO GODDAMN ANNOYING, AND the people working there are total IDIOTS! No, i'm not exaggerating; TOTAL FRICKIN’ IDIOTS! And finally, can we really trust THESE PEOPLE with our data?! Keeping it private and safe? We are seriously screwed guys. And shouldn't we be thinking of fixing the other parts of the country still left in the dark ages before trying to advance? Go into the Ministry of Health and you'll see people still writing things down on pieces of paper. WHERE IS THE BLOODY TECHNOLOGY?! I wouldn't mind a 1985 IBM system at least, but NO! They don't even have that! WORK ON FIXING YOUR BLOODY PROBLEMS BEFORE TRYING TO ADVANCE; you can't run before you crawl, and shit, we're still on the verge of crawling. This is going to end up as such a HUGE disaster, I can feel it!

Mahmood is worried about the use of the Smart Card for political purposes, to further sectarian aims:

How is all of this going to affect us in Bahrain is anyone’s guess. My private guess is that it is going to be detrimental to our freedom – at best. Not because the card itself is a bad idea, not at all, things are moving in that direction the world over anyway. Its failure in Bahrain is the almost complete absence of its supporters simply because of the people who have been assigned to oversee it, and the clandestine organisation that is pushing it.

No project can succeed if it lacks the basic necessity of trust. This one, for all the potential good that it can otherwise bring, is destined to doom. Bahrainis simply lack the necessary trust to make it successful. Oh they will go and get that card issued, to be sure, because as we have seen with the CPR card that preceded it, no earthly transaction could be completed in this country without it.

What’s left to do but tell those who care to simply “brace brace brace” as this thing will come crashing down, or at least will never reach its full potential.

Unless of course full transparency is adopted and those who have hijacked this project for nefarious deeds are removed.

Education matters

With the new school year soon to start, education is on people's minds. Ammar wants change:

We have smart people in Bahrain; most of them just go brain-dead under our current system, we need our people to be challenged, strengthened, given the tools to promote and advance. We need that to get rid of the corruption, the unemployment, the shortages, the ignorance…

Please… Fix our educational system…

Yagoob is happy to be a teacher:

Teaching is one of the hardest jobs on Earth, we’ve all at some point in our lives have seen a teacher reaching the brink of insanity (or turning insane) in his/her quest to restore order in the class and feed you with information that you will either forget and never use in your whole life or the kind of stuff that will stick with you like a لزقة جونسون (a Johnson and Johnson’s band aid) for the rest of your life.

[…]

I’m a teacher trainer by day and a computer teacher at various institutes by afternoon and night, although I might add that I have had no studies in education other than a single ’train the trainers’ course I took earlier this year.
Working in these areas, the majority of the people you come across are there because they want to learn, the teachers fill in the appropriate forms and get them signed and switch around their timetables just to get to the training, whilst in institutes, putting it bluntly, they pay for it!

[…]

Luckily for me, whenever I mess up a lesson (and this happens a lot when you use technology and bloody Windows keeps crashing or the Internet is not connecting or even worse really slow) I can always rectify it with the next group I teach and once I get it right, I feel this soothing sense of satisfaction quite similar to the way you feel after drinking a cold glass of water in a month like this one.

Ebtihal Salman is dreading the start of the new school year:

قبل شهر إن لم يزد بدأ إعصار العودة إلى المدارس باكتساح الإعلانات في الشوارع والمحلات التجارية، ورغم مرور سنوات على تخرجي من المدارس إلا أن هذه الإعلانات لم تزل تصيبني بالضيق، ويزداد الضيق كلما تذكرت أنك لا تستطيع الهرب حقاً من قدر “العودة إلى المدارس” مهما طال بك الوقت. فإذا كنتَ ولياً (أباً أو أماً) لطالب فعلى ميزانيتك لهذا الشهر و الشهر التالي أن تستعدا لمحنة استنزاف شديدة، حتى تتمكن من توفير كافة الاحتياجات المدرسية المادية لطالب العلم، ويؤسفني أن اهتمامك بتعليم طفلك سيجعلك فريسة سهلة ومستكينة لتجار القرطاسية والملابس والأحذية والحاجات التي لا تنتهي لهذه العودة. قلبي مع الأولياء الذين يجهزون أكثر من طالب ليعود إلى مدرسته.
A month ago, if not more, the back to school hurricane started taking over the ads on streets and shops. Despite the passage of years since my graduation from school, I still feel upset when I realise that I will never be able to escape the ‘Back to School’ destiny forever. If you were a guardian (a mother or a father) of a student, your budget for this month and next will be getting ready for a huge dent – in order to be able to meet the financial obligations of this student of knowledge. It is a shame that your interest in ensuring the best education for your child will make you an easy prey for the traders on stationery, uniforms, shoes and the endless list of things necessary for the beginning of the school year. My heart goes out to parents who have more than one student going back to school.

New superheroes

Looking for a job? Think carefully what you put in your application. Sairafi is amazed at some of the CVs he has received recently:

Work has been taking too much of my time, but to actually make more time for myself i’ve started a mission this week, beyond ordinary…to create the next set of superheroes, also known as: The Employables

The Employables, in my mind are just like any superhero posse hanging out, with extra hip, extra cool abilities that are matched by no other! They’re here to save my company, to save this market, to save the country, and finally, to save the universe!

If i weren’t so objective about my unusual hiring process, i’d probably trash just about every CV that comes my way, i didn’t realize that a tiny ad in the GDN would get me all sort of potential superheros that by far leave Spidey and Batyboy look like cheesy amateurs living in a cookie jar. i’m pretty sure everyone has their CV story, i’m really not looking to outdo anyone, but i’ve managed to combine these talented individuals to create a group of superheros that would make the X-MEN look like sissies.

Lady AutoFire, don’t let her simple relaxed and feminine beauty fool you, this lady can pack a punch, sending her cv a good number of times to statistically guarantee a chance to be reviewed! unloading CV’s uncontrollably to by far drown her employer!

The Preacher, I had nothing good to say about him initially, but geared with ONLY his religious lecturing experience won me over, he will preach the rest of staff to success, and pray the company will be the next Google.

Ultimatum, no, he’s not Bourne, but he sure got me by setting an ultimatum for my response! By the end of his cover letter, I thought I was applying to his company!

Ms. Blaine, probably married to the illusionist David Blaine, she has the super-ability to make her CV disappear from my mailbox, I searched for a good five minutes till I realized her CV wasn’t attached.

Needy Many, Many, asked me to do “the needful” when it came to her application, I was a bit confused as to what “the needful” really was though? I suddenly “needed” her.

Poetry slammed

In these roundups I don’t normally quote from my own blog, bint battuta in bahrain, but this week I will, because I am amongst the bloggers who have written about poetry in Bahrain. My post described a discussion about the translation of an erotic poem:

I’ve discovered that it’s not such a great idea to discuss translations of poems in a public space. When I translate poetry, I always talk to the poet about the images and underlying concepts of the work. Until now, without it being a deliberate plan, I have always met the poets concerned in relatively quiet, private environments – their offices or homes. But last night I had a meeting arranged with a certain gentleman poet in a café, and I knew from the outset that our conversation was going to be difficult.

[…]

I was sitting with the gentleman whom I know, but not that well, in a very public environment. I like his work, and I respect him, and he always behaves very respectfully with me, but I had to wonder what anyone listening to us last night must have thought (and believe me, it was very easy to listen in). The poem we were discussing described, in an oblique way, the sexual act, so his explanation was littered with ‘members’ and ‘sperm’ and ‘climaxing’ and goodness knows what else.

[…]

The conversation was in Arabic, which I suppose gave it some distance for me, but of course made it all the more interesting to those sitting at neighbouring tables in the café. And this gentleman didn’t seem concerned at all. In fact not only did he speak loudly, but he happily threw my name into every sentence.

Butterfly attended a poetry recital a while back, and it left her unimpressed with poetry in Bahrain today:

المفاجأة انني اكتشفت فيما بعد ان الشاعر الذي لم أكن قد سمعت عنه من قبل يعد احد الشعراء البحرينين المعروفين ممن صدر لهم أكثر من كتاب وديوان شعري
هو نفس الشاعر الذي يقول في مقابلة له قرأتها على أحد المواقع الالكترونية بأن قصائده نوع من الفنتازيا الشعرية وبأن” قصيدته القادمة ستكون عن نوع من القوارض سمع صوته في غرفة نومه في ليلة من الصمت المطبق فحدد مكان تواجده و تبين أنه لا طعام أو بقايا له في المكان فأشفق عليه، وبدأ في التحري عنه إن كان ثعباناً أو فأراً أو صرصاراً فقط لأجل العناية به أو الإفراج عنه إن كان مزنوقاً. وعندما فشل وهو أخلد للصمت بدأت محنته أي الشاعر لأنه إذا تصرف الفأر أو الصرصار دون درايته في وقت هو يحدده فقد يرتكب حماقة بحق”. لا أعلم فعلا أي نوع من الشعر او الفنتازيا الشعرية تلك التي يتحدث عنها ولا أعرف كذلك سر ولع الشعراء البحرينيين بالقوارض والصراصير فقد سبق

وان قرأت قصيدة مماثلة واتحفظ هنا على كلمة قصيدة وأضع تحتها ألف خط لشاعرة بحرينية تتحدث فيها عن تجربتها مع صرصار فاجأها ليلاً

في كل الحالات فهناك خلل ما .. أما انها فعلا فنتازيا شعرية أو ان المشكلة تكمن فيني لأنني لا أستطيع تذوق الشعر البحريني المعاصر

The surprise was when I discovered later on that the poet whom I had never heard of before is considered to be one of Bahrain's renowned poets, who has had a book and a book of poems published. He is the same poet who said in an interview in an online publication that a poem is a type of poetic fantasy and that his next poem will be about a type or a rodent that he heard in his bedroom on a quiet night. He pinpointed the place where it was and realised that there was no food or any leftovers in the place. He started sympathising with it and started investigating whether it was a snake, rat or cockroach, just for the sake of caring for it and freeing it if it was trapped. When he failed and the creature became silent, the poet's crisis began as the rat or cockroach could have found a solution without the poet's knowledge, leading the poet to commit real stupidity. I really don't know what type of poetry or poetic fantasy he is speaking about is and I also don't understand the secret behind the obsession of Bahraini poets with rodents and cockroaches.
I had previously read a similar poem – and I have strong reservations against using the word poem – by a Bahraini poet, who speaks about her experience with a cockroach, which had surprised her at night.
At any rate, there is a problem somewhere.. and it could either be in the poetic fantasy or in that I cannot comprehend contemporary Bahraini poetry.

Storm-swept seems to have a similar opinion about Bahraini poetry, and parodies it:

تعال و شوف شعراء البحرين , احنا مو مفتكين من هالحكومة يجون لينا هالشعراء و ياذونا بعد !!
الواحد منهم مو فاهم ويش يقول و يبانا احنا نفهمه …
و كل ما تقول له شي … قال لك : انت متخلف و ضد الثقافة …
يا اخوان احنا صدق ما نفهم واجد بس مو شديه … تحطون قصائد ما ليها اول و لا اخر …
و الله قصائدكم اصعب من قصائد أمرء القيس …
بالله عليكم و يش تفهمون من قصيدة ( الغرباوي ) الشاعر البحريني المشهور اذا قال لك قصيدة مثل :

تفاحةٌ حمراء …
تفاحةٌ حمراء …
و بانكة مترامية الاطراف …

يا اخي ويش جاب تفاحة حمراء الى بانكة ؟
ويش هالوصاخة … معذور اكيد قاعد يكتب قصيدته في الحر …

Come and see Bahrain's poets. We are not having a break from the government and now poets come to add to our miseries!!
Some of them don't understand what they are saying and expect us to understand them…
And every time you tell him something, he says: “You are backward and against culture…
We really don't understand that much but not to this extent…You write poems without a beginning nor an end…
I swear that your poems are more difficult than those of Imru Al Qais….
By Allah, what do you understand from the poem by Al Gharbawi, the famous Bahraini poet when he says:

A red apple…
A red apple…
And a widespread fan…

My brother, what has the apple got to do with the fan?
What is this rubbish? He must have an excuse as he surely was writing his poem in the heat.

More debates and discussions from Bahrain next week!

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