Nizar Qabbani


Qabbani was a Syrian poet and diplomat, born to a merchant family in Damascus. He was the grand-nephew of the pioneering Arab playwright Abu Khalil Qabbani. He studied law at the University of Damascus graduating in 1945, and then entered the diplomatic corps. He represented his country in
Egypt, Turkey, Lebanon, Britain, China and Spain before retiring in 1966 and moving to Beirut, Lebanon, where he founded a publishing house, Manshurat Nizar Qabbani.

His first collection of poetry is called Qalat li al samra’ (The Brunette Told Me, 1942), and was published when he was just 19 years old. It was an instant success, and grew in popularity as time went on. The themes of his poems were at first strictly romantic, then grew to be outspoken criticism of Arab political and social life and the oppression to human freedom and dignity. His poetic language is simple but eloquent and noted for capturing the rhythms of everyday Syrian speech.

The suicide of his sister, who was unwilling to marry a man she did not love, had a profound effect on Qabbani and much of his poetry expresses the experiences of women in traditional society. Verses on the beauty and desirability of women filled his first four collections. Later, he often wrote from a woman"s viewpoint and advocated social freedoms for women. His "Ala hamish daftar al-naksa (Marginal Notes on the Book of Defeat, 1967) was a critique of poor Arab leadership during the 1967 war with Israel. Among his more than 20 poetry collections, the most noted volumes are Habibati (My Beloved, 1961) and Al-rasm bi-al-kalimat (Drawing with Word, 1966). Qasa"id hubb ‘Arabiyah (Arabian Love Poems) was published in 1993.

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