By Nizar Qabbani / translated by Rana Bitar and Robert Bensen
Nizar Qabbani (Syria, 1923-1998) is often claimed to be the Arab world’s greatest love poet and critic of Arab political and cultural traditions, particularly those that oppress women. A career diplomat, he served in Syrian embassies in Egypt, Turkey, Lebanon, Britain, China, and Spain. He lived his latter days in London, having been expelled by many Arabic governments for the criticism voiced in poetry that people adored, memorized, and often set to music. His work in classic forms and free verse helped establish the idioms of modern Arabic poetry. In over 30 published books of poems, he continually explored the rhythms and language of everyday Syrian speech.