Fadwa Tuqan


The “grande dame of Palestinian letters,” Fadwa Tuqan was born in Nablus in 1917. The sister of the prominent poet, playwright, and Radio Palestine director Ibrahim Tuqan, she shared his poetic talent. However, when her father asked her to write political poetry, she found that because of the repressive social restrictions she faced as a woman, she could not find the connection between her father’s aspirations for her, and her own emotions. In her autobiography, Difficult Journey – Mountainous Journey, published in 1985, Fadwa observed that “the poet must know the world before it can be healed through poetry.” Fadwa struggled to find her voice in her youth and adolescence, and it was not until 1948 with the Palestinian Nakba and the death of her father that Fadwa felt liberated and able to speak from her heart in her poems. She notes the irony of this, “When the roof fell on Palestine, the veil fell off the face of the Nablus woman.” Tuqan’s work explores many themes especially love and social protest from a woman’s perspective. She began to focus more on the plight of refugees and life under occupation after 1967 and the Israeli take over of her home city, Nablus. Tuqan was a pioneer of the use of free verse in Arabic poetry. She studied English language and literature at Oxford University for two years beginning in 1962. The recipient of many honors including the International Poetry Award, the Jerusalem Award for Culture and Arts (1990), the United Arab Emirates Award (1990), and the Honorary Prize for Poetry (1996), Fadwa died in 2003.