In my last post I wrote about a brave Saudi poetess who is defying the strict Islamist rules of Saudi Arabia. She is a symbol of women’s struggles to gain freedom and equality in the Arab and Islamic worlds. However, she is not one of the first female poets to come from the Arabian peninsular as the wonderful book ‘Desert Voices: Bedouin Women’s Poetry in Saudi Arabia‘ testifies.
As the title suggests, this book is a collection of Bedouin poetry written by women over the centuries. In fact, it’s closer to the truth to say the poetry preserved in this collection has been passed down orally from generation to generation of Arab women. Desert Voices has been compiled by Moneera Al-Ghadeer who is a professor of Arabic Language and Literature at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, in the United States.
Lyrics of love and desire are explored in the first English translations of the rich tapestry of Bedouin women’s poetry. The book is also a progressive move in opening up the sphere of Arabic poetry to the wider world which in turn will lead to contemporary examinations and critiques. The more negative aspects of human existence are also explored such as a grievance and mourning, which together with the positive aspects provide an insightful exploration into the cultural heritage of the Bedouins (desert dwellers).
Moneera Al-Ghadeer herself is a talented writer and a deep thinker. Along with the poems, she offers her own interpretations and examinations of the works as well as making a case that Bedouin women’s poetry can become a literary theory to take its place beside the canons of European and American literary theories.
If you have a fondness for Arab culture, literature and in particular an interest in women’s rights in the Middle East, then ‘Desert Voices’ will provide a stimulating read. You can read further reviews of this popular poetry book here: ‘Desert Voices: Bedouin Women’s Poetry in Saudi Arabia‘.