By Tamjid Alkohali
Yemeni poetry has passed through many difficulties. One rare poetic star is the great poet and critic Dr. Abdul Aziz Al-Maqaleh who was born in 1937 in of Ibb at Al-Maqaleh. He follows the school of free poetry, and he is the first Yemeni poet to win Al-Owais cultural award.
Al-Maqaleh finished his B.A. in 1970. In 1977, he received his Master’s degree and PhD from Ain Shams University in Cairo. He was the President of Sana’a University between 1982-2001, and then the Head of the Center for Studies and Research in Sana’a. He was the Cultural Advisor to the former President, the member of the Linguistic Complex in Cairo and Damascus, and member of the Center for Arab Unity Studies in Beirut.
Unlike the other famous people who are very difficult to meet, Al-Maqaleh is very accessible, and spends most of his time in his office at the Center for Studies and Research. He spends all his day reading books, replying to people need of advice. Al-Maqaleh is a cultural and creative reference for all generations. National Yemen culture editor met with him last week in his office discussing Yemen’s culture update.
NY: Dr. Abdulaziz Al-Maqaleh, How do you like to introduce yourself?
Al-Maqaleh: I’m a Yemeni citizen, a specialist in literature, and I care about the youth and creativity. I’m very keen to take Yemen out of its cultural isolation.
NY: For the first time, culture in Yemen will be headed by a female leadership represented by Arwa Abdo Othman, the Minister of Culture. What are your expectations for her?
Al-Maqaleh: I’m very optimistic of the managing the Ministry of Culture by a woman. I’m sure that women can make the needed changes in any field. In addition, my trust of Arwa Abdo Othman has no limits.
NY: would you please Update us on Yemen’s today culture?
Al-Maqaleh: Despite of all political and economic difficulties, which Yemen was and still suffers from, I confirm that cultural movement in general and the field of poetry in particular achieved a marked development that is about to exceed what has been achieved in many Arabic countries that have preceded us in this movement.
NY: Policies today aim to support youth and their thoughts. How do you evaluate the performance of youth?
Al-Maqaleh: Let me say that discussions about youth still abstract issue and don’t embody in reality yet. Youth today suffer from negligence and the absence of care. Many creative youth don’t find help or work in order to develop their creativity, especially youths who are considered the vital center and the basis of the change.
NY: In October, you headed a national committee that aimed to reconcile Yemeni political parties and end their disputes. Can we say that Dr. Abdulaziz Al-Maqaleh has turned from a cultural person to a political person?
Al-Maqaleh: Never. This doesn’t mean I am a political person. With this participation, I’m considered a responsible citizen who calls to end the political crisis and other crises
NY: Is the deterioration of the culture and literature in Yemen is because of the youths’ suffering, economically and socially?
Al-Maqaleh: Never, Yemeni youths suffered in the past, present, and they will still suffer in the future if the official and popular interests aren’t devoted to help and improve their lives, and society depends on this to escape its political, cultural and economic crises. However, every era is characterized by a new creativity, but no one pays attention to this creativity, even in the scientific field.
NY: Yemeni poetry has been known throughout the ages. However, there isn’t famous poet like you. In your opinion, How do you justify poets disappearance?
Al-Maqaleh: I disagree with you, there are many famous poets whose voices reach most Arab countries but they need time to develop their creativity. For me, I tried my best to break the silence of creativity and help youths in different fields.
NY: In the past there were limits on publishing books. Tell me about the relationship between publishers and publishing houses, and what are the obstacles of publishing?
Al-Maqaleh: We are suffering in this country from the absence of publishers who are interested in publishing books in a non-commercialized way. In fact, publishing in our (Yemen) country is still in its infancy. There are many intellectual and literary works on the shelves waiting for publishers, and there is a flawed publishing process that is implemented by the Ministry of Culture.
NY: The last prominent cultural event in Yemen was “Sana’a Capital of Culture” in 2004. Why is there an absence of cultural events?
Al-Maqaleh: No doubt, the political situation is the main reason for this absence. Politics doesn’t allow for cultural events. However, there is still a hope for the country to regain its activity.
NY: How do you see the political process in Yemen today?
Al-Maqaleh: It seems to me that politics have become the bread and butter for people. Citizens, either in city or countryside, are all politicians, as if politics became all their jobs. Unfortunately, such interest increases the concerns about the future of production and creativity, and affects negatively on the homeland’s soul.
NY: The benefits of university education are no longer as they were in the past. How do you explain this decline?
Al-Maqaleh: I can’t answer this question and I hope the current officials at Sana’a University can answer it.