EAA Global Lecture Series #1 “Approaches to researching Somali poetry” By Dr. Martin Orwin

EAA Global Lecture Series #1  “Approaches to researching Somali poetry” By Dr. Martin Orwin


Guest speaker: Dr. Martin Orwin (Associate Professor, University of Naples “L’Orientale”)
Moderator: Dr. Mai Kataoka (Project Research Fellow, EAA UTokyo)
Date and time: 12 August 2021, 5:00 pm JST (10:00 am ITA)
Format: One hour lecture followed by discussion and Q&A
Language: English
Open to: All students studying at University of Tokyo and Peking University
Registration: To join this event, please register to attend.

About the lecture
I shall begin with an introduction to myself and how I came to research Somali poetry followed by a brief introduction to the Somali people and their poetry. In the main part of the lecture, I shall then discuss a couple of the central research questions I am thinking about and writing on at present. These relate to the use of language in poetry and its aesthetics and performance.
I shall begin by presenting the two systematic stylistic features which must be present in a poem: metre and alliteration. Metre in Somali is quantitative and is determined by sequences of long and short syllable types (I shall explain these); for a line to be metrical it must follow one of a number of specific patterns which range from short to long. Alliteration in Somali works such that there must be a word beginning with the same sound in each line or half-line according to the metre.
Given that Somali poetry is a tradition in which writing has only come to be used relatively recently and which is still, to a significant extent, an ‘oral’ tradition, performance of poetry is also an important aspect to consider. Traditionally it was performed solely vocally, in a musical manner. The later development of instrumental musical accompaniment then went hand in hand with the development of poetry. I shall discuss the approaches I use when considering these issues and will illustrate my talk with video and audio examples as well as texts, all of which will have English translations. Through these examples, I shall furthermore outline how I research the aesthetic use of language and the use of imagery which is specific to Somali poetry and which often reflects the environment in the countryside and the life of the nomads.

About the speaker
Martin Orwin is Associate Professor in Somali language and literature at the University of Naples “L’Orientale” where he teaches these subjects from beginner to advanced level. His research centres on the use of language in Somali poetry. He has written articles on metre and alliteration both from general perspectives and also in relation to specific poems and how these features are crafted within them and contribute to the aesthetics. He has written a little on the relationship between language and music both from a theoretical perspective and with reference specifically to Somali. He has a strong interest in the translation of poetry and has published translations of poems by Maxamed Ibraahim Warsame ‘Hadraawi’, Xasan Xaaji Cabdullaahi ‘Xasan Ganey’, Xuseen Sheekh Axmed ‘Kaddare’ and Maxamed Xaashi Dhamac ‘Gaarriye’ among others which can be found in a number of publications.

*The second EAA Global Lecture is scheduled to take place in the first week of October 2021. 

For event enquiries, please contact m.kataoka[at]

Organised by East Asian Academy for New Liberal Arts (EAA)

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