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The Progressive Poet

In conversation with poet, writer and translator, Mr Hameed Al Qaed

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A passion for reading harboured since his childhood has taken Mr Hameed Al Qaed on roads less travelled to become one of the most renowned and respected poets, writers and translators in Bahrain. Since his first poetry collection “Lover in the Era of Thirst” published in Arabic as early as 1975, he has had several works produced both in Arabic and English that has won him laurels even on an international front. The Bahrain This Week team finally got in touch with this man of wisdom where he shared with us the importance of bilingual literature, the subjects he loved to work on and how technology impinges into the comfort zone of print material.

Your works seem to be unique, with all of them being bilingual – Arabic and English. Was that a conscious decision that you took? If so why?

I have always believed that communication between nations creates love, peace and deeper understanding and poetry is the ideal means to achieve this target. This made me utilise my talent in translation in promoting such communication. I also believe that many conflicts in the world are due to miscommunication. I decided consciously to take the Bahrain poetry to cross the borders so the people in the world could hear and witness our creativity. I believe strongly that Bahrain is the natural fountain of poetry; our poets are very talented and unique in the GCC countries and also in the Arab World. I tried my best to promote my own poetry and Bahraini poets broadly through translating their poems. My anthology received an overwhelming response in USA and Europe. The American poet, Thomas Sterner Howe, in his foreword in my Anthology expressed his cultural shock when he read Bahrain’s poetry. I feel that he couldn’t believe that on this tiny remote island, there are such advanced, talented and open-minded poets, where they believed that it was a land of camels!!

What is the most talked about subject in your work?

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My poems are the expression of my inner world. I try to touch the pulse of time through my own vision. However, they in general are about love in its various forms, love of my country, romantic love and love towards people. It is about human sufferings through visionary carvings. Modern poetry, unlike the classic, is the echo of soul and time.   It is a vision and philosophic impressions. It does not talk about a specific subject in a direct form; you may find spirit or glimpse of many subjects in a single poem, like a symphony, like drops of rain touching your forehead. It tries to be free in every aspect, like rain, like movement of trees, like birds flying in the sky without any boarders or constraints.

Tell us about your experience with translating the Van Gogh Letters. How different was it from other translations you did?

In fact, I discovered that the letters of Van Gogh to his brother Theo were not professionally translated. I loved the world of this international artist and his sufferings during that far era. I found him a real artist who failed to sell his paintings to cover his simple needs of living to the extent that he cut one of his ears to express his anger. He never knew that his unlucky paintings will be worth millions one day. This was a very interesting experience for me; to translate his letters and to know this miserable artist deeply. I published some of these letters in a local newspaper. My original plan was to complete the translation of his book and get it printed but I found the idea is useless with the efforts and expenses involved which can never be recovered. I am ready to complete the translation if someone is ready to finance it.

We always get to hear that getting to publish your work in Bahrain is relatively tough. How did you manage to have successfully published all the wonderful work of yours?

My first book was financed by Bahrain Writers Association, while the 2nd edition was financed by me. My second book, which won the Book of the Year 2003, was published through the Authority for Culture and Antiquities. The anthology, published in USA, was financed by Shaikha Mai Al Khalifa through Shaikh Ebrahim Bin Mohamed Al Khalifa Center for Culture and Research. My 4th book was published and financed by myself. As a matter of fact, the Authority of Culture and Antiquity normally publishes our books but usually it takes a long period of time due to the number of books and budget constraints.

Do you think the youth today is moving away from the artful world of prose and poems? How do you think they can be brought back?

The answer is relatively, yes. The youth today worldwide, unlike the seventies, are taken away by internet and social media. We have no choice except to say that poetry and literature in general is for the elite. They could be brought back by including Bahraini poetry in the education curricula in high schools and through support of the local media. Can you believe that there are several newspapers and magazines that treat poetry and literature carelessly and they do not pay the writers which they publish? This is highly discouraging for Bahraini writers. I believe Bahrain’s writers must be given full support and be rewarded for their creativity. Writers are the cultural and civilized face of any nation. They are the ones who promote the country’s name worldwide. In short, they should not be left alone.

What according to you is the secret recipe for being a successful writer or poet?

The secret recipe is to be talented and have real passion for writing. Writing is a real window to release your stress, sorrows and love. Writing is the best psychiatrist for depression. Reading, language and strong desire are the tools. Once you express yourself and release your pains on paper in an honest and artistic structure you may expect success.


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