Poetry holds a dear place in Arab culture and poetry groups and events are popular in the region. Poetry groups in the UAE have always celebrated poetry and encouraged expression. With time and as the pandemic began, poetry events - known also as poetry evenings - became a platform for expression and connection in the UAE.
Events, where several participants perform their lines of poetry, are often held in cafes or cultural centres. They are a much-anticipated occasions during which crowds listen intently.
With the pandemic, however, these experiences changed. Many poets got a sense of emptiness and isolation. Poetry groups used to thrive through poetry evenings that encouraged people from all backgrounds to share their talents on stage. But after lockdowns, poetry groups have sought a virtual way to bring harmony to the community. Online meetings then offered some solace and a sense of community.
The move to online platforms such as Zoom also provided some benefits. Some poets gained more confidence in their work as virtual poetry evenings allowed them to share their work without having to perform in front of people directly. In the UAE, participants in poetry evenings were able to engage with peers from other locations both locally and globally. With that, online poetry meets gave the performers a sense of accomplishment.
The nostalgia of in-person poetry evenings remains but the virtual meets are making space to salvage the spirit of spoken word and storytelling, and are offering a much-needed outlet for their voices to be heard and where hope and support are offered.