the moon sacrificed her lights
to the blind. This generosity
took the shape of pure mystical
glowing lights emanating from
Invisible lanterns revolving around
the pupils of the blind’s eyes
releasing infinite waves of light
rekindling their dimmed eyes
resembling dark caves,
various lights, a rainbow of lights—
a reference to the first moment
so limpid and crystalline.
TSTmpj: "Generosity" has a delicate indefiniteness to it that strikes me as being unlike much Australian and American poetry I've read recently. Would you say it is in a style that is currently being written in your part of the world? How connected do you feel in this Age of the Internet to the world writing community, and how do you feel it's affecting how you write?
Ali Znaidi: I agree with you that the place where the writer lives affects his/her writings. But writing oftentimes is affected by the writer’s mood or state of mind. I try to use a variety of styles and techniques when writing poetry. But the form or the style of the poem usually depends on my mood. I wrote “Generosity” at a night when I felt confused, and ideas were chaotically tumultuous and perplexed in my mind.
I strived for indefiniteness and vagueness just to reflect the dichotomy of light and darkness as human beings are in a constant war between the powers of light and the powers of darkness.
I think this dichotomy is what keeps us confused, and makes us oscillate between these two extremes. Each one of us is searching for that light either in his/her heart, in the other, in religion, in the arts, in nature, etc. The quest of light and noble values like justice, freedom, and generosity is something I have attempted to express in this piece.
I think this confusion in my mind generated “Generosity” in an indefinite style. This indefiniteness can encourage the reader to ask questions instead of me just asking them in the poem in a precise and straightforward style.
I think we sometimes need a certain indefiniteness in poetry because at the end a poem is not a scientific article that requires precision.
As for the second part of your question, the Internet is of paramount importance in this age. It is, in a way, a democratic tool that offers a venue for all voices to be heard. Thanks to the Internet, I have the opportunity to read a lot of international writings. Most presses and publishing houses in Tunisia publish creative works either in Arabic or French. So I am really very grateful for the Internet for this exposure, for instance, in less than 3 months I get published in more than 11 ezines. I seize this opportunity to thank Russell Streur, The Camel Saloon editor, who was the first to publish a work of mine, and all editors who published some of my works. Without the Internet I wouldn’t be given the chance to be published, especially in my case as a nonnative speaker of English. So I feel lucky to be connected in this Age of the Internet to the world writing community. For example, I am a member of a creative writing site: http://sixsentences.ning.com/profile/AliZnaidi. This site can be considered as a laboratory or an online workshop enabling members to post their writings, discuss, and interact with each other. Besides, reading established writers’ works and interacting with editors through the process of submission/rejection or acceptance affect, in a way, my writings.
TSTmpj: What is it like being a poet in Tunisia? Would you care to share some thoughts on the place of poetry in Tunisian society today?
Ali Znaidi: Poetry is deeply rooted in Tunisian culture like any Arab country. Along their history Arabs are mostly known for their poetry. Tunisia is the land of such great poets as Abul Hassan Al Houssari, Ibn Rachiq, and in the modern era the international poet Aboul-Qacem Echebbi. However, poetry ceases to be that influential art these days due to social, economic, and cultural factors. Besides, readers tend toward reading more prose at the expense of poetry. Despite this fact, there are some established names, and even some of them participate in international poetry festivals.
Being a poet in Tunisia means to struggle to get exposure because it is very tough when it comes to publishing. More and more poets are using modern technology, and social media to carve a name before being able to publish some books.
TSTmpj: What do you wish to achieve with your writing in the future?
Ali Znaidi: Being an established writer has haunted me since my childhood. I dreamt of being a well-known Arab writer. But this dream; to borrow Langston Hughes’ expression, festered due to certain circumstances. This dream revived when I started studying English literature at university. Exposure to English literature triggered me to resume writing, but once again I stopped writing. 2012 is a turning point in my writing life as I come out of the closet and start submitting to many ezines. Getting published here and there is encouraging me to work more on my texts. I also aspire to translate some Tunisian writings and poetry into English.
What I wish to achieve with my writing, if life permits, is to be able to leave a certain trace after my death. The idea of reaching a reader with my work after one hundred years or so would make me feel good in my grave.
Ali Znaidi lives in Redeyef, Tunisia. He writes poetry and has an interest in literature, languages, and literary translation.