This article explores the definition of the term meta-poetic and its application to the poetry of the ʿAbbāsid age, focusing on short compositions and excerpts in which poets explicitly voice their critical opinions on poetry. The cultural milieu of the period and the debates and issues that surrounded ʿAbbāsid poetry necessarily influenced poets and their creative processes. ʿAbbāsid poets wrote for an ideal reader/critic not only qualified to appreciate their innovations but also capable of placing their contributions in the continuum of the tradition they were writing against, bringing the relationship with the literary past to the forefront of the poet’s concerns.
The Free Verse poets and the ʿAbbāsid muḥdathūn (the modernizers of the eighth and ninth centuries) share a similar meta-poetic posture at the core of their modernizing projects. Both groups were aware of not only their role as initiators of change, but also their position vis-à-vis the poets who wrote before them. This paper examines these two modernizing experiences through the lens of metapoesis to reveal some of the critical and theoretical concerns that continue to haunt Arabic poets today.