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Culture vulture

Poet Wole Soyinka is likely to address the opening session. (SUPPLIED)

By Keith J Fernandez

Why are phrases such as iambic pentameter suddenly being dropped at dinner tables around the city? Because some 100 poets from 45 countries hit the shiny emirate next week for the first edition of the Dubai International Poetry Festival 2009. It runs at the Madinat Jumeirah and the House of Poetry in Shindagha from March 4 to March 10.

Is that different from the literature festival? Yes, the Emirates Airline International Festival of Literature closes today at Dubai Festival City. The DIPF, on the other hand, is a diverse platform embracing all forms of poetic works, regardless of style.

So which poets are coming in? Nigerian poet and Nobel laureate Wole Soyinka, pictured, is likely to address Wednesday's opening session of the festival, 'A Thousand Poets – One Language'. His Highness Sheikh Hamdan bin Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Crown Prince of Dubai and Chairman of Dubai Executive Council, leads an evening of poetry reading on Saturday. Other names to look for are Venezuela's Enrique Moya, James Fenton and Matthew Sweeney from the UK, India's Imitaz Dharker and Ranjit Hoskote, Joachim Sartorius from Germany, Dr Mana bin Saeed Al-Otaiba and Saif Al-Marri from the UAE, and Abdul Rahman Al-Ashmawi and Ghazi Algosaibi from Saudi Arabia.

Is it all just poetry reading? Not at all. A series of panels and discussions will examine women's poetry, prose, the conflict between poetry and the novel, and the risks of translation. The event aims to bring culture closer to Dubai's residents, with a recreation of the traditional Souk Ukadh, featuring the works of Arab poets in short plays at various malls.

One event I shouldn't miss? A celebration of the life and works of Omar Khayyam at the House of Poetry next Thursday. The 11th century Sufi poet is perhaps the Middle East's most famous export and his Rubaiyyat has been on sale at a shop near you for centuries.

What are the damages? Everything's free, so make the most of it! Details at www.dipf.ae.


The Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra wings its way to Al Ain next month for an intimate chamber music evening on March 11 and a full symphonic programme on March 13 under top conductor Zubin Mehta, pictured, at Al Ain's Al Jahili Fort. Both are part of the Al Ain Classics Festival, which runs from March 5-20.

There's quality Arabic entertainment on offer: Friday, March 6, sees Mozart's opera, The Marriage of Figaro, performed in Arabic, while Shakespeare's Richard III gets an Arabic makeover on March 20. Tickets for all shows are Dh50 and available at Virgin Megastores. More details at www.aacf.ae.