We’re still in shock after that Brazil-Germany game, but it’s time to pick those jaws up off the floor (a slightly macabre image) and get back to the Poetry World Cup, where the first semi-final brings together Singapore and Tunisia. Singapore have attracted strong support in every round so far, reaching the semis with an emphatic win over Trinidad & Tobago, whereas Tunisia were minutes away from going out in the first round, eventually drawing with Botswana and going through on a ‘golden vote’. Can Tunisia’s poem cause one of the biggest surprises of the tournament and go all the way to the final?
MEET THE POETS
Tunisia’s World Cup poet is Ali Znaidi, an English teacher from Redeyef who says that smoking and green tea are crucial to his ‘moments of revelation’. Ali Znaidi’s poems have been widely-published in recent years (he is reputedly the first Tunisian poet ever to have published a collection of haiku in English), and his work has been translated into German, Greek, Turkish and Italian. He has also translated work by the New Mexican poet Catfish McDaris into Arabic.
Proudly waving the flag for Singapore is Desmond Kon Zhicheng-Mingdé. The recipient of the PEN American Center Shorts Prize, Swale Life Poetry Prize and Cyclamens & Swords Poetry Prize, among other awards, he also has a theology masters (world religions) from Harvard and fine arts masters (creative writing) from Notre Dame. His work spans various genres —ethnography, journalism, poetry, and creative nonfiction: ‘I’ve come to realise,’ he says, ‘that… I was meant to work across artistic media. The hats are all funky to wear, and life is a grand party.’
ROUTE TO THE SEMI-FINALS
After edging out Botswana via a golden vote, Tunisia produced a late comeback to finish 3 votes ahead of Bermuda in the second round, then beat Venezuela more comprehensively in the quarters.
Singapore scored the biggest win of the opening round, beating China by 48 votes, and have been in imposing form during high-scoring victories over Cyprus in round two and Trinidad in the quarters.
Talk to me apple
before a hungry
mouth devours you.
Talk to me apple
before the sun
dries your skin.
Talk to me apple
before a knife
peels you from
extreme to extreme.
Talk to me apple…
~ Ali Znaidi
“It was game season, and there was blood and lust in their eyes. It was no different from Rome in the old days. Gladiators, lions, slaves, the ringmaster, thrust in a ring together. No different. No different at all.” In the next hour, Geronimo practically talks to himself, gives himself a lesson in violence as spectacle. “What are the forces of tradition? How do they bear down on these peoples? We are in their debt really. We don’t get to see this kind of steadfastness in the city…
~ Desmond Kon Zhicheng-Mingdé
RESULT: Singapore won by 54 votes
A selection of interviews with Ali Znaidi.
Ali Znaidi on ‘the Arab Spring through the eyes of Arab novelists’.
‘Bye, Donna Summer!’, the first published collection of Tunisian haiku in English (from Fowlpox Press).
‘Poetry, and Tunisia’s future’ (via ArabLit).
Zafar Anjum interviews Desmond Kon Zhicheng-Mingdé for Kitaab.
Desmond Kon Zhicheng-Mingdé showcased at Pirene’s Fountain.
Squircle Line Press, founded by Desmond Kon Zhicheng-Mingdé.
‘Scholem in Forty Winged Hours’, an award-winning poem by Desmond Kon Zhicheng-Mingdé.
Five prose poems by Desmond Kon Zhicheng-Mingdé at Asymptote.