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Jawdat Haydar and the Modern Spirit of the Mahjar Poets

Haydars Life
Haydar was born in Baalbeck in 1905. He joined his exiled family in Anatolia in 1914. Upon his return to Lebanon, he developed a particular interest in the English language. In 1925, he traveled to the USA to pursue his education at North Texas University. He wrote his first English poem there. In 1928, he decided to come back to Lebanon, but he faced some complications.

Haydars Life
In 1960, he decided to devote the rest of his life to poetry writing. In 1980, Voices, his first collection of poems, was published in New York. Voices was followed by Echoes (1986), Shadows (1999) and 101 Selected Poems (2001). His writings reveal the influence of the Mahjar poets.

The Mahjar Poets


By 1905, the Mahjar poets had already settled in the USA and started their literary careers. They belonged to the wave of Lebanese immigrants who were forced to leave their country because of Ottoman oppression. Living as exiles, they were rooted in their Arabic culture; therefore, they continued to write in Arabic. However, they realized the importance of their newly acquired English language and decided to use it to address the outside world.

The Mahjar Poets


They were concerned for the Arabic language and aware of the need to overcome the limitations set by Arabic poetry. As a result, they found much freedom of expression in English. Due to their exile, they wrote about their feelings of nostalgia, longing for Lebanon, idealization of nature, alienation, and cultural experience. These themes are found in Haydars poetry, but under a MODERN light.

The purpose of the study is


To argue that Haydar not only reincarnates the spirit of the Mahjar poets, but he also represents a continuity, which is shaped by modernism, through the development of the themes previously emphasized by the Mahjar poets.

Neoclassicism 1870s

Romanticism 1900s

The Mahjar Movement 1910s-1920s

The Tammuz School 1940s

Modernism

Jawdat Haydar 1980

1950s-1960s

The Four Major Areas Under Study


1- Haydars Cultural Identity 2- Haydars Use of English 3- Haydars Poetic Themes 4- Haydars Modernism

1- Cultural Identity
The Mahjar poets retained their Arab identity while embracing the American culture. As a result, they were obviously culturally hybrid. The nature of their identity is revealed in Rihanis terms: I am a citizen of two worlds [the East and the West] a citizen of the Universe (The Book of Khalid 237). Although Haydar did not live in exile, his writings reveal his belonging to two cultures: the ArabLebanese and the English.

1- Cultural Identity
Haydar declared: Despite its international course, the poetry I write in English is steeped in my roots as an Eastern and Arab man who feels the hardships of his nation and suffers deeply with it (Khairallah 51). One critic commented: Haydar grants us the privilege of sharing with him the intellectual heritage of those Lebanese who feel as much at home in the American cultural tradition as in their own (Wahbeh 5).

1- Cultural Identity
Haydar praised the beauty of his homeland: The deep is rising, the ships heading east The green mountains capped with snow behind Perhaps the eye of an artist possessed May contain such a paradise in mind (Voices, Lebanon, 5-8) At the same time, he remembered Texas dearly: Oh! no more never more those homely sunsets, No more never more those song sparrows to hear; Ah! For the Queen moon to take me where she sets On the horizon in old Texas, the dear. (Echoes, Sweet Home, 13-16)

1- Cultural Identity
Because Haydars poetry aimed to release the poet from the constraints of time and place, it is universal in many ways. Cultural identity is not a stable nucleus in the human being because it is a continuous and changing process (Funk and Sitka xiv). Therefore, it would be inappropriate to bind Haydar with one cultural identity. Instead, it is better to perceive him as a cultural hybrid, who had a humanistic sense of belonging to the world.

2- The Use of English


The Mahjar poets initially wrote in Arabic before English began to be a more predominant medium of expression. They were proud of their Arabic cultural heritage, but they were also aware of a degree of obsoleteness in the Arabic language, which needed to be treated.

2- The Use of English


Haydar considered the Arabic language to be one of the greatest languages in the world (Mishwar al Omor 168), but he was also aware that it was outdated and needed to be modernized and changed. The fact that the English language provided him with what he needed to express himself explains his decision to use English exclusively in his poetry.

2- The Use of English


In addition, the use of English meant the ability to reach larger audiences around the world, especially for a poet who sought to convey his messages to the world. Finally, Haydars exclusive use of English may be interpreted as a direct development from the Mahjar tradition of writing.

3- The Themes
1) Nature The Mahjar Poets
Idealized nature and condemned the harmful effects of industrialization and the preoccupation with materialism.

Jawdat Haydar
Used the theme of nature to condemn the scenes of destruction in Lebanon. And to warn against imminent environmental catastrophes.

3- The Themes
2) Nostalgia for the past The Mahjar Poets
Expressed their nostalgia by remembering the childhood years they spent in Lebanon. Stayed in the past.

Jawdat Haydar
Expressed his nostalgia by remembering the glorious past of Lebanon. Projected the past into the future to show the readers that Lebanon can restore its glorious image of the past.

3- The Themes
3) Longing for Lebanon The Mahjar Poets
Longed for their native country because they were living as exiles in the USA.

Jawdat Haydar
Expressed his longing for Lebanon despite the fact that he was not in actual exile. His longing springs from his rejection of the present situation of his country and his wish to reunite with the Lebanon of the past.

3- The Themes
4) Alienation
The Mahjar Poets Were compelled to leave their country. Felt alienated upon their arrival in a strange land. Were unable to cope with and integrate their new-found society.

Jawdat Haydar
Did not write his poems in exile. Expressed feelings of alienation which were the result of his rejection of the bitter reality of his country and environment.

4- Haydars Modernism
The Mahjar poets alienation was the result of a personal experience. Haydars alienation, on the other hand, was the result of the combination of collective consciousness with personal experience. What makes Haydar a modern poet is his commitment to political, social and environmental issues. Commitment or Iltizam is, in fact, a modern concept, introduced to Arabic poetry in the 1950s.

4- Haydars Modernism
1) Political Commitment: Haydar believed in Lebanese unity; therefore, he called for all Lebanese people to unite in the name of their love for their country: Brothers why be like a moon on the wane Ever beating the bolted door in vain Hence why not unite again to stand gain Prideful of your Lebanese cultured vein
(Shadows, Brothers, 1-4)

4- Haydars Modernism
He was also a supporter of Lebanese nationalism and condemned foreign powers for disseminating discord among the Lebanese and causing the War. He condemned the strong nations which purport to be protecting the rights of man and yet abuse them. In short, he condemned the erroneous use of power which leads to the destruction of nations and people.

4- Haydars Modernism
2) Social Commitment: Haydar was attentive to his peoples sufferings. He was also a supporter of womens rights. He called for Lebanese immigrants to return to their country: Come back put your foot down and your head up Like proud Sannin on the breast of our land With eyes looking the world from the top up Our flag, down the years of the brine washng sand
(Shadows, Lebanese Immigrants, 21-24)

4- Haydars Modernism
3) Environmental commitment: Haydar committed his poetry to the condemnation of forces that strive to harm nature. In his own terms: Nature is a gift from God. I hope that through my work I can convey a simple message saying: People of Earth, better listen and be awake, be wise, read the past to make the future. Do not pollute nature, do not destroy it, avoid wars; otherwise, you shall lose the paradise you are living on (McDonnell 29)

4- Haydars Modernism
He warned against the creation of another hell on earth through the wrong use of science. Blinded by their desire for glory and achievement, scientists have turned the world into a place of despair: The world has become the home of despair Countries full of scorpions and baneful snakes Mad cows pigs goats and sheep and still unaware Of the most bloody future and earthquakes
(101 Selected Poems, Walk Straight, 1-4)

In my 100 years I have seen a lot of changes around me in the world, but the elements that inspired me to write remain constant all through my life on this earth. (Jawdat Haydar) These elements are related to his love for his country and its nature and his belief in the possibility for world peace. His poetry shows a Mahjar influence, which he developed and modernized.