Zahi Wehbe is a poet and media personality who has brought culture into every Arab home through his passion for poetry and art.
He shared this passion on a programme called "Khaleek bil Beit" that made him famous over the last 15 years.
Wehbe said love is the theme of his poetry, as the word is all-encompassing and does not discriminate between men and women.
During a visit to Kuwait, where he is scheduled to present two poetry recitals, Wehbe spoke with Al-Shorfa about the process of writing poetry and his love for books.
Al-Shorfa: Why do you insist on classifying your poetry as love poetry rather than ghazal?
Zahi Wehbe: It is well-known that ghazal refers exclusively to descriptions of the beloved, whether a man or a woman. [Ghazal] is far removed from descriptions other human qualities these people possess, which are far broader than [physical] features. For this reason, I make sure to include a human description of both sexes in my poetry, since I do not believe there is a vast gulf between them, as appears in some works of poetry. The characteristics of both men and women are more comprehensive and far-reaching than simply admiring the beloved.
Al-Shorfa: Does reciting poetry require talent or experience?
Wehbe: A poet should recite his own poetry because he is more capable of conveying the intended idea and expression. Several renowned poets, such as Ahmed Shawqi, the Prince of Poets, will not recite their own poetry but will have someone else take their place, for the ability to recite poetry is a blessing from God. I myself am devoted to reciting my own poetry.
Al-Shorfa: Has the media been the source of your fame as a poet or has your poetry made you a famous media personality?
Wehbe: I liken a person's life to a flowing river, which as it moves along, flows through many tributaries that make up the sum of its course. From the moment of birth until death, a human life is shaped by the experiences it undergoes. Media and poetry are among the tributaries that shaped me, but poetry has a special place because blank paper is the screen on which I can articulate everything that goes on in my deepest thoughts. I began [composing] poetry in my childhood, long before I had a media presence, but media contributed to widening its reach.
Al-Shorfa: At what point does a poet gain international recognition?
Wehbe: The more famous a poet becomes in his hometown, the closer he gets to international recognition. When someone opts for simplicity, chooses what deeply stirs him and combines that with a mastery of the concepts he works with, he is recognised by others regardless of their language and cultural background.
Al-Shorfa: You recently joined the Al-Mayadeen news channel, a decision some people criticised. How do you respond to that reaction?
Wehbe: My appearance on the programme "Beit al-Qaseed" on the Al-Mayadeen news channel is like a revival of the programme "Khaleek bil Beit", which was very successful and broadcast on Al-Mustaqbal television.
In "Beit al-Qaseed", I will present everything cultural, [a range of] personalities and subjects. To all those who challenge me on my decision to join Al-Mayadeen, because of its political background, I say am far from that.
On Al-Mayadeen, I will have the freedom to control the programme according to what is compatible with the show, regardless of anyone's political or ideological background. This was what I had with Al-Mustaqbal, which I left solely because I wanted to change its production and not because of any political dispute, as was rumoured.
Al-Shorfa: You have released several poetry collections through different publishing houses in the Arab world. Why haven't you established your own publishing house?
Wehbe: It is better for a poet to focus exclusively on his craft, so his mind is clear for his words and poet's notepad. For a poet's mood is what makes him creative, in conflict with the world of money and administration that requires constant attention and follow-up from the moment of printing until the final product is released, and beyond that. Marketing requires skill, which disrupts a poet or an artist's work. Because of this, I have not thought about having my own publishing house and rely on others for this task.
Al-Shorfa: What is in your home library?
Wehbe: I own more than 40,000 books I collected from all over the world. Books that address the nature of the countries I visit are tucked away in my library, since I started collecting them when I was 11 years old.
In my library, there is no ban on what comes in, but all my books are banned from going out. I am dreaming about setting up a library on my farm, carrying my mother's name, Rasail. She is the one who educated me and encouraged me to develop an interest in reading. I inherited all of my character traits from her.