AL-BUHTURI'S POETICS OF PERSIAN ABODES It has been said that medieval Arabs had no genre of writing that we would recognize as "literary criticism," meaning, I suppose, that MLA con- ventioneers never swung down from their howdahs to deconstruct Bedouin abodes in imperial Baghdad, while would-be job marketeers wearing bor- rowed finery offered praise and enthusiasm in return for rejection letters finely worded. The following discussion of al-Buhturi's poem, "I have pre- served my soul from what pollutes my soul (?untu nafsi cammà yudannisu nafsi)," intends to demonstrate how acutely aware Abbasid poets were of the strengths and limitations of their poetic heritage. There is no need for a sepa- rate genre of "literary criticism," for the criticism is in the poetry itself. Perhaps this essay would rather reconstitute itself in verse, but living within the limitations of my own culture and literary practice, I must offer some theoretical justification for the comments which follow, rather than rhyming and scheming my own version of abandoned encampments. Escape from one's language and poetic tradition-whether a tradition imposed on one or into which one is born-is no simple proposition. The greatest of poets, among which we should include al-Buhturi, call
Journal of Arabic Literature – Brill
Published: Jan 1, 1997
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