Omar Abu Rishi



Syrian poet and diplomat, Abu Risha was born in Acre, Palestine, to a family originally from Manbej, near Aleppo in northern Syria. He attended Damascus University, the American University of Beirut and the University of Manchester. He was well read in English, American and French poetry, which left a strong influence on his work.

Abu Risha’s father tried to dissuade him from pursuing poetry, and sent him to study chemistry in England. There, Abu Risha fell in deeply in love, but the young woman he wanted to marry died of typhoid. He described his pain in a poem called “the last love”, which ushered in a new era of Arabic romantic poetry.

He won fame in the Arab world in the 1930s for his modern approach to poetry in which he broke with the traditions of Arab classicism, and for his nationalism in the face of French colonial rule. In 1940 Abu Risha was appointed director of the national library in Aleppo. His first book, Poetry of Umar Abu Risha, was published in 1947 at the height of his fame, and is his most popular work.

In 1949, he was appointed for one year ambassador to Brazil, then to Argentina for three years, then India (1954-1959), Vienna, Washington and again India in 1965. IN 1970 he resigned from diplomatic service and moved to Beirut. He died in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia and was buried in Manbej, Syria.

References:عمر-أبو-ريشة ; Modern Arabic Poetry, An Anthology, ed. Salma Khadra Jayyusi. Columbia University Press, New York 1987.