Jordanian literature – both prose and poetry – is the pre-eminent form of artistic expression. Jordanians have long enjoyed poetic contests between two teams, the winning team being the one that could recite the most poetry; such contests are still held today. A young Bedouin used to be taught poetry – in addition to fighting and horse riding – even before he learned to read and write.
Jordanians appreciated the Arab language, and a person who spoke eloquently was highly esteemed. Poetry was an important form of expression. One of the pre-eminent Jordanian poets of the 20th century was Arar (Mustafa Wahbi al-Tall), famous for the social content of his poetry, which deals mainly with the poor, the underprivileged, and the life of Jordan’s gypsies.
The Jordan Writers Association was formed to help Jordanian poets and writers to stimulate literary life in the kingdom.
There are many short-story and novel writers in Jordan, and many Bedouin television series have been based on their works. Short stories written by local writers between 1970 and 1998 focused on social issues and problems, as well as on the Palestinian cause. Jordanian poetry has matured over recent decades and is beginning to focus on national issues, such as women, poverty, education, workers, and pan-Arab affairs.
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