ABU DHABI // Hassan Baiti was crowned the prince of Arab poetry on Thursday, winning both the title and Dh1 million (US$272,000).
Mr Baiti, from Syria, won the third season of the Prince of Poets television contest. In the final episode, he saw off competition from five rivals to take the crown.
Mr Baiti also won a burda, or cloak, symbolizing Arab historical heritage and a ring denoting an emir or prince.
Mr Baiti said poetry would be his focus in the future and that he would consider leaving his job in Syria, “which is far from poetry and culture”, to dedicate himself to “writing, culture and poetry”.
“My poetry is still shaping up, and I am not deciding which direction I am going,” Mr Baiti said. “It is somehow mature, but not fully. I would say my poetry is based on contradictions. It contains emotional, intellectual and mental contradictions.”
He described the televised competition as a landmark event.
“The Prince of Poets, as a contest, is one of its kind in history, and I am not even exaggerating. It is the most important poetry contest throughout the Arab history, because it is the only contest through which you can reach the Arab audience everywhere in a matter of a few episodes.
“This has never happened before. It is happening, thanks to Abu Dhabi. The contest also had a high-calibre panel of critics.”
Mr Baiti’s wife, Zubaida Dayyoub, said her husband had been anxious but determined throughout the contest.
“I felt he was going to win when we got into the hall today,” she said.
“The feeling comes and goes, but I felt, somehow, he would be chosen. When it happened, I felt it was not real; it was like a dream.”
One judge, Nayef al Rashdan, praised the poem that Mr Baiti recited on the final night as having great artistic value and said it marked him as “a masterly poet”.
Dr Salah Fadhil, another of the judges, described Mr Baiti’s poem as “the best cure for the soul”, and that his words were “like a song with beautiful lyrics”.
I think It's absolutely marvelous that the interest in classic Arab poetry is being revived in such a spectacular manner. Big Thank You to Abu Dhabi Authority for Culture and Heritage (Adach) for coming up with a sponsoring this initiative.
Here's a video of Hassan Baiti in action (not on the final night, though):