Adonis Wins Kumaran Asan World Prize for Poetry While Showcasing Visual Art

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PJ & Adonis, Boston 2012
PJ & Adonis, Boston 2012

On Monday, the Syrian poet Adonis was chosen to win the Kumaran Asan World Prize for Poetry, given in memory of the legendary Malayalam poet:

This honor — the lastest for the much-laureled Paris-based poet — came just after Adonis opened “A,” a Paris exhibition of his visual art.

According to The Times of India and The Hindu, jury member K Jayakuma said at a news conference announcing the Kumara Asan award: “We didn’t have to think twice to choose Adonis as he is the most prominent voice in world poetry today.”

Further:

“Though separated by more than a century, Kumaran Asan and Adonis have a lot in common as poets. Both are great modernizers in their language, Kumaran Asan in Malayalam and Adonis in Arabic, and share a spontaneous urge for freedom and social reformation without compromising traditional values.”

The poet, born Ali Ahmad Saidi Esber in 1930, spoke with Olivia Snaije the night before his art show opened and a week before he won the Kumaran Asan prize. Adonis calls his visual work “raqima,” Snaije says, “from ‘raqama,’ which he says means to write and color simultaneously.”

Calligraphy, Adonis told Snaije, is tiring, “like everything that is beautiful is tiring. It’s not easy. Taking the easy way out is the great illness of art as well as of our modern life.”

According to a profile this week in the New York TimesAdonis took to making visual art “when he was having trouble writing poetry.”

Adonis is certainly not the only prominent writer from the Levant to marry the worlds of visual art and poetry — Etel Adnan’s visual art has seen a surge in interest — but his are very poetry-oriented, usually incorporating verse.

The Kumaran Asan prize doesn’t bring an enormous purse — 300,000 rupees (around $4,800) — but it is prestigious, and is set to be presented to Adonis on May 3 at a function at Kayikkara.

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