ABU DHABI - The crown and the AED 1,000,000 went to Eyad Hakami, who won the season seven of Prince of Poets competition. A young poet who comes from Jazan, a city in the south of Saudi Arabia, Eyad was overwhelmed with joy and pride when his name was announced close to midnight on Tuesday night, April 25th, during the show at Al Raha Beach Theatre in Abu Dhabi, broadcasted live on Baynounah TV and Abu Dhabi TV.
"I got a call from my mom just before the show and she said 'you're going to be the Prince!' Tonight, though, all of us are winners. We are more than friends, we are like family now," said Eyad.
"I feel being in the final, and now winning, is a big responsibility! Before the show, people who read my poetry were in their hundreds, but now they are hundreds of thousands, so I need to be as good as they expect me to be. We received an impressive amount of comments and encouragement from the audience and now, when I write a poem I am more careful to deliver verses worthy of the Prince of Poets title. I need to be a real prince in my writing."
"The first thing I will do when I go back home is to sleep for two months! Seriously, though, I think I'm going to have a break to read more than to write, to provide better tools for my writing. When I feel I'm ready to write better than I used to, I'll do it. Hopefully I will publish a volume of poetry and I also plan to travel abroad to meet with poets from other countries and exchange ideas and experiences," he added.
Organised by the Cultural Programmes and Heritage Festival Committee - Abu Dhabi, the Prince of Poets competition began on February 21stwith 20 poets representing 12 Arab countries, selected from hundreds of candidates. For the first time during this seventh season, half of the competitors were women. Over the 10 shows that took place on Tuesday nights at Al Raha Beach theatre, they all got to write their poems and recite them in front of the judges, the audience and the viewers at home.
The three judges, Dr. Ali bin Tamim (UAE), Dr. Salah Fadl (Egypt) and Dr. Abdelmalek Mortadh (Algeria) offered constructive criticism for each poem in the competition. Their votes (50%) and the viewers' votes (50%) cut the good from the best until just six moved forward into the finals.
"With every season the competition got gradually better and this season was no different," pointed out Eissa Saif Al Mazrouei, the Committee's Director of Special Policies and Projects.
"The poets now better understand the terms and conditions of the competition, as they learnt from watching others compete. Also, all the activities that come with the Prince of Poets, all the seminars through the Poetry Academy and the poetry events organised by the Committee, contributed to making poetry famous again, bringing it back to its former glory, to be part of society, part of the majlis, accepted and welcomed everywhere."
"I think season seven gained and furthered that momentum that Prince of Poets started in season one. What was different this year was the 10 female poets in the programme, which created a very high level of competitiveness throughout the competition. In the end, poetry won," he said.
In the final six only one female poet was still standing: Afya Al Asadi from Iraq. The night began with announcing the first votes that eliminated one last competitor from the winning five. It was Oman's Nasser Al Ghassani. Before the winning results were announced, each of the final five recited one last poem. It started with Afya, who chose to dedicate her last verse on Prince of Poets stage to women all over the world.
"Tonight I'm not anxious any more. I feel more confident in my poetry and myself, especially since my country, Iraq, stands with me, people supporting me with their votes and their messages and I don't know how better else I could thank them, so I just say thank you," she said as she was getting ready to enter the limelight.
"I received a lot of support from other female poets too and I feel now, in the finals, it would be like a party for all of us. My family and friends also stand with me. My mom sent me a message saying 'Be yourself in your writing and recite well. We have full confidence in you, and you know that the whole country is with you, all Iraq speaks your name and has your picture, so just be yourself". Whatever happens tonight, I feel like a winner".
After a great poetry night, the special guests of the finals' competition, Sheikh Nahyan bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Chairman of the Board of Trustees of the Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan Charitable and Humanitarian Foundation, Sheikh Nahyan bin Mubarak Al Nahyan, the UAE Minister of Culture and Knowledge and Staff Major General Pilot Faris Khalaf Al Mazrouei, Chairman of the Cultural Programmes and Heritage Festivals Committee, were invited to award the winners as the results were finally announced.
In fifth place, which came with an AED 100,000 cheque, was Afya, followed by Chaikhna Haidara (Mauritania), who won fourth place and AED 200,000 and Egypt's Hassan Amer, winning third place and AED 300,000.
The heat in the audience began rising, the crowd now standing and cheering as two Saudi poets were now in a toe-to-toe battle of verses. As Eyad's name was pronounced, Tariq Al Sumayli was warmly congratulated for winning second place and AED 500,000.
Confetti, cheers and flashing cameras ended another great season for classical Arabic poetry. Before season eight of Prince of Poets returns to Al Raha Beach Theatre in 2019, it will be the turn of Nabati (Bedouin dialect) Million Poet competition to incite and inspire poets and poetry connoisseurs next year.