arab poetry. iraq: 1 post

Nazik Al-Malaika on Why Do We Fear Words

Do you want to feel impressed and inspired? If so, here is the story of the Iraqi poet Nazik al-Malaika (1923-2007). Her life could be a movie script–wrote her first poem at the age of 10, studied at Princeton before it accepted women, established a university, turned the ancient tradition of Arabic poetry on its head.

If anything, my synopsis understated what a meteor this woman was. Al-Malaika was born into a literary family. Her father was a teacher and her mother was poet, who as was common at the time, published under a male pseudonym. Nazik al-Malaika not only would revolutionize Arab poetry by adopting a novel, free-form style, but she also would secure a place for women in literature and lend her name to a poetry prize. Al-Malaika won a scholarship to study literary criticism at Princeton where she was the only female student. She earned a comparative literature degree from the University of Wisconsin in 1959, and when she returned to Iraq, she taught at the University of Baghdad and helped to establish the University of Basra. The rise of the Ba’ath Party forced her into exile in 1970, and al-Malaika lived the rest of her life in Egypt, where she published several collections of poetry and prose.

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