Despite having published more than ten poetry collections, Saudi poet Ibrahim Zoli is still preoccupied with an existential question: "Do I write poetry, or does poetry dictate what I write?”
As he puts it: "A poem is not a house cat that follows its master whenever he pleases, nor is it a fine leather wallet that the rich put in their pockets and take out when they want." Instead, a poem is choosy – it decides when, where and how it wants to be told.
For Zoli, these poetic whims have come to him for decades, starting with his first collection, Gradually Towards the Earth, in 1996. He has since titles such as Personal Guards for Solitude and Trees Fleeing the Maps, among others.
Al Majalla speaks to Zoli about his style, creative process, and recent book, ‘Emergency Exit - Open Texts’.
You opted for prose poetry as your poetic style. Did you consider other methods?
A poet who is content with one style is a poet who does not look to the sun or the future. True, I was never one to burn through writing stages at random. I started by writing traditional poetry with rhymes and minor and significant variations. But as soon as I noticed my writing becoming repetitive and monotonous, I ventured into metered verse. And because I believe in innovation, I eventually turned to prose poetry.
I don’t take credit for this. The spirit of adventure has always been in me. He loses everything when the flame of adventure goes out from the poet's soul. He relapses and retreats into a lonely, miserable corner where he’s trapped for the rest of his life. Without experimentation, the poet digs his own grave.
How do you view prose poetry?
According to Nietzsche's description, I aspire to convey in ten sentences what others say in a book. I think the new poem renounces the luxury and excessive extravagance of eloquence, which can ruin a text. It is moving steadily towards word economy, which completely abandons anything that serves to distract from the essence of a poem.