Visual Listening to Alaa Abd al-Hadi's Sīrat al-Mā’ or [Water Biography] (1998)

Document Type


Publication Date

Spring 5-18-2023


Sīrat al-Mā’ [Water Epic] (1998) is an open work in which ʽAlāʼ ‘Abd al-Hādī does not attempt to create a definitive order, but deliberately leaves the arrangement of the constituent parts of the volume fluid to allow readers to create multiple possible orders. Underlining is used to create two completely different con/texts that break into thirty-two articulations, thus creating a decentralized work that allows readers the freedom of composition and invites an infinite number of readings. The poet’s contravention of poetry conventions is exemplified in innovating a unique print, avoiding meter, mixing genres, arranging words in an unusual manner, shifting point of view, deviating at the phonological, graphological, lexical, syntactic and discourse levels, crossing cultures and deferring meaning. Through its formal properties, which radically contravene established conventions of poetry writing, Sīrat al-Mā’ represents a postmodern view of the world as senseless, disordered, and fragmented. In this paper, an attempt is made to listen visually to the form and structure of this open work and reflect on its transdisciplinary nature that inextricably mixes the auditory and the visual.