By Tamjid Alkohali
The emergence of any creator in Yemen has become very difficult, despite Yemen being the source of cultures, civilizations and creators as well. There are many reasons that creators are sitting in the shadows rather than in the lights. Laila Elhan, writer and poet, works at the Ministry of Culture and began her career by writing poems in response to a statement that broke her will.
“That was in 2001, when I went to Alafif Cultural Foundation, because my friends told me that this Foundation supports talented people and helps them emerge. I still remember that day. I chose the best poem of mine to offer, hoping to win a prize, training course, and a chance to improve my writing. However, the results were unexpected. The recipient threw away my poem saying that this isn’t even less than normal.”
Laila added that she showed her poem to many friends to evaluate it before she offers it. All of them said that it’s great, in the same time she was waiting to hear a constructive criticism “my pen couldn’t write for long time, I was just asking myself, does my writing really less than normal and I can’t write anything”. Said sadly.
Laila became frustrated. She didn’t want to write anymore, but she was lucky that she has a supportive mother who took her to meet the famous poet and writer Dr. Abdul Aziz al-Maqaleh.
“I went to Dr. al-Maqaleh’s office and I gave the secretary an envelope with my poem in it, and a request letter in which I wrote that ‘if what I write is a poem, please help me to improve my talent.’ After three minutes, the great poet was before me, asking ‘where is Laila?’
“I was very scared, but he didn’t let me wait more. He said with a broad smile that my poem was a real poem, and that I will be a famous poet not only in Yemen, but also in the Arab world.”
Dr. Al-Maqale demanded that Laila join him at the center every day, and to read poetry and literature books. She was told to write a poem every week, and give it to him in the weekend.
“Dr. Al-Maqaleh embraced her not only professionally, but also spiritually,” her mother said.
After two years of training, in 2003, he surprised her that he would publish her first poem for her in 26 September newspaper. From that time, Laila has been published in both Althawra and 26 September newspaper. Now she has a group of poems, and was published in Beirut after Sana’a was chosen as a Culture Capital.
Laila says that she considers herself lucky for knowing people, as it is difficult to be found these days without people like Dr. Al-Maqaleh. She also emphasized that cooperation between Arab countries helped her career, because her books were printing in Lebanon and Jordan without any cost.
“But today, because we have only private printing presses, it costs a lot, and it isn’t easy to spread a poet’s book even among the governorates.”
Unlike Laila, there are a lot of poets don’t find someone appreciate their creativity. The Yemeni poet and writer Mohammed al-Kaud explained that cultural institutions miss their chance by not holding enough competitions, festivals, and cultural events which encourage the creators to give and highlight more of their work.
He also said that the Ministry of Education doesn’t encourage student creativity.