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Modernity and Metapoetry in Muhammad Afīfī Matar’s Hunt Poem: Tardiyyah

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AbstractThis study consists of an interpretation and full translation of a single poem by the contemporary Arab Egyptian poet Muhammad Afīfī Matar (1935-2010). The poet titles it Tardiyyah (Hunt Poem). With this title, the poem admits its link to the Umayyad-born and Abbāsid-matured genre of the “poem of the courtly hunt,” Tardiyyah. Afīfī Matar’s understanding of his no longer courtly, modernist poem is therefore hermeneutically connected to his understanding of the old genre, informing his modern mythopoetic employ of the archaic motif of “the morning of the hunter.” This essay also discusses: Afīfī Matar’s place among the European and American poets of radical Modernism, especially, regarding the mythopoetic stance of Wallace Stevens; the problem of the notorious difficulty and obscurity ( suūbah and ghumūd ) of Afīfī Matar’s poetic language; and the general search of modern Arab poets, among them Adūnīs, for a new poetic language. Finally, the essay singles out Afīfī Matar’s Tardiyyah and his very personal mythopoesis as a total achievement in the presentation of a Modernist Arabic poem—an achievement analogous to Wallace Stevens’ “central poem,” that is, A Primitive like an Orb.

Affiliations: 1: The University of Chicago, URL:


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