Date of Degree


Document Type


Degree Name



Middle Eastern Studies


Christopher Stone

Subject Categories

Near Eastern Languages and Societies


The Syrian poet and cultural critic Ali Ahmad Said (1930 - ) (Adonis) is one of the most influential Arab poets of the 20th century. His poetry represents a radical rupture with what was established before. Adonis’ poetry is associated with innovation and revolution, and his language is characterized by mysticism and hermeticism. While living in Beirut, he co-founded the influential literary journal Shi'r (1956-63) with the Lebanese poet Yusuf al-Khal (1917-1987), and a few years later he founded his own journal, Mawaqif (1968-1998). Both journals served as a prominent literary platform for cultural modernity and radical criticism of the Arab heritage and tradition. Adonis’ literary and theoretical oeuvres have been the subject of a number of discussions and debates within the Arab intellectual circle and beyond.

This paper, is chiefly concerned with Adonis’ notion of the poetic vision that expresses itself in two dimensions, as a matter of form and content. The formal expression of vision is artistic, to “make it new,” as Ezra Pound said: poetry must take new forms and use new techniques to reflect the now-ness of vision; its ability to present the world as it is right now. When a poet is being visionary, he or she cannot use old forms and motifs, because this would be to substitute the lived experience of the poet for purely literary conventions.

The notion of vision that manifests itself as a poetic content is essentially concerned with the poet’s insight and not his technique. Such poetic insight finds resonance in Sufist and Surrealist pronouncements; it seeks meaning in other metaphysical realities. Hence, the content of vision is the mystical, the otherworldly. This is more like William Blake’s view of vision: poetry must describe the truth of everything that evades and escapes the senses. A poet who is visionary cannot simply write poems about everyday life, because the poet sees more than the everyday person. I suggest that these two dimensions are potentially in tension. They are not, exactly, saying the same thing. However, I attempt to investigate how Adonis adapts and develops this interesting marriage of the two kinds of vision in his poetics.