Mahri Poetry Archive



The distinction between poetic couplets and multi-line poems (both polythematic and monothematic) is simple: couplets are restricted to two lines of verse while multi-line poems extend over three or more lines.

In the Mahri poetic practice, pithy and humorous proverbs often take the form of couplets.  These couplets are passed around by poets and non-poets alike and attribution is often legendary.  Certain poetic genres – primarily exchanged dāndān and reǧzīt – can only be expressed through couplets since this short, easily memorized format is best suited to extemporized and collectively chanted lines of verse.

The distinction between “Multi-line Monothematic” and “Multi-line Polythematic” is less evident and may be only discernible for extreme examples of each.  At one end of the spectrum, monothematic poems address a single topic: a specific event or unified lyric idea.  Monothematic poems that are sentimental tend to be more recently composed; most of the poems in The Dīwān of Ḥājj Dākōn fall into this category.  Traditional sentimental poems often roam across a variety of themes or even address “occasional” topics.  However, disparate themes linked in paratactic fashion in a traditional Mahri poem may, in fact, address a common topic through the metaphoric language of Mahri poetry.  For instance, in Yearning for Baḳlīt, the poet ʿAlī ʿAwaź al-Jidḥī evokes Baḳlīt in a number of different guises: a fertile field, a rain cloud and silken fabric.  ʿAlī ʿAwaź’s strong feelings for Baḳlīt are encumbered by the rejection he faces from Baḳlīt’s family, who are disinterested in him as a potential suitor.  Motifs that evokeʿAlī ʿAwaź’s longing for Baḳlīt are thus braided with motifs that evoke familial and social obstacles to their marriage.  These latter motifs depict the patience and skill that tradesmen bring to their crafts: boat building, piloting a fishing boat and farming an irrigated plot.  Through the accumulation of these motifs, ʿAlī ʿAwaź communicates his dogged persistence in the face of their reluctance to allow him to marry their daughter.  Moreover,ʿAlī ʿAwaź indicates a socio-economic dimension to their refusal: they are “property owners” whereas he is on “the outside” and must rely on other professionals (“ship-builders”) to work on his behalf.  Although this poem appears to be polythematic, the braided pattern of interconnected motifs engenders a thematic unity that can easily be overlooked.  Therefore, it is worth approaching the distinction between monothematic and polythematic poems with caution.


Multi-line Monothematic

Multi-line Polythematic

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