Essay on Zajal (art of the poetic duel) in Jadaliyya

Image of zajal performance in Byblos from The Times of Malta

Image of zajal performance in Byblos from The Times of Malta

This is an autobiographical piece published in online journal Jadaliyya about Zajal (the art of the poetic duel that I grew up with) and how it was effected when electricity and TV came to my village of Deir Keifa in southern Lebanon. The story was shared widely and was also linked later in the Arablit blog which in turn expanded on the history of Zajal.

“We gasped every time a poet ended with an impossible word. We would whisper to each other, ‘He just ended with MULE! How are you supposed to start a stanza with mule?’ But just when we thought the combatant was stumped, a stanza would shoot back at the attacker. Soccer had nothing on zajal. In our house, the courtyard was the main arena for zajal.”

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