Travel Enriches Poems of Basim Furat, Winner of the Helmy Salem Prize for Poetry


Honours that Furat has received include the Ibn Battuta Prize for Travel Literature, which he has won twice, in 2013 and 2014, and the Sultan Qaboos Prize for Culture, Arts and Literature, which he won in the travel literature category in 2019. He has also won more than one award for poetry.

Awards Are Not a Mark of Distinction

Despite these honours, Furat does not think prizes are important and does not regard them as evidence of literary distinction.

“They lose their importance when years pass without critical attention to the laureate’s works,” he said. “What is the value of an award if the winner’s aesthetic achievement does not inspire critics to write about it?”

Studies, research, and articles on a writer’s creative output are what reinforce and maintain the awards’ relevance, he said.

“Too many prizes and writings are a double-edged sword; their best use is to motivate the writer to innovate, and to increase his responsibility in return for the praise bestowed on him,” he said.

Furat’s works vary between prose poetry, classical vertical poetry, and dactylic poetry. He began his poetic career writing classical vertical and dactylic poems, which he says came naturally because of a musical ear and because of his rich readings and early memorisation of old Arabic poetry.

Furat also writes prosodic poems that combine two meters (incense). “I wrote a long poem, narrating the biography of the late poet Hussein Mardan,” he recalled. “It combined two meters: the branch (trotting) and the random (trilling).”

Places as Sources of Poetic Astonishment

Furat has spent many years in exile and has visited some 40 countries around the world. After overcoming the initial difficulties of reconciling with new locations, he began to notice a problematic aspect of exile in the works of Iraqi poets who, like himself, were forced to leave their homeland.


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