Syrian diplomat, poet, essayist and playwright, one of the most popular love poets in the Arab world. Qabbani wrote over 50 books of poetry. His central theme in his early erotic works was the physical attractiveness of women. He also revealed chauvinist attitudes of men towards women and urged women to rebel against their status in society. Later he portrayed the complex relationships between men. In the 1950s, Qabbani was with 'Abd al-Wahhab al-Bayyati among the pioneers, who started to use the simple language of everyday speech in verse.
Nizar Qabbani was born in the Syrian capital of Damascus to a middle class merchant family. Qabbani was raised in Mi'thnah Al-Shahm, one of the neighborhoods of Old Damascus. Qabbani studied at the national Scientific College School in Damascus between 1930 and 1941. The school was owned and run by his father's friend, Ahmad Munif al-Aidi. He later studied law at the Damascus University, which was called Syrian University until 1958. He graduated with a bachelor's degree in law in 1945.
While a student in college he wrote his first collection of poems entitled The Brunette Told Me. It was a collection of romantic verses that made several startling references to a woman's body, sending shock waves throughout the conservative society in Damascus. To make it more acceptable, Qabbani showed it to Munir al-Ajlani, the minister of education who was also a friend of his father and a leading nationalist leader in Syria. Ajlani liked the poems and endorsed them by writing the preface for Nizar's first book.
When Qabbani was 15, his sister, who was 25 at the time, committed suicide because she refused to marry a man she did not love. During her funeral he decided to fight the social conditions he saw as causing her death. When asked whether he was a revolutionary, the poet answered: “Love in the Arab world is like a prisoner, and I want to set (it) free. I want to free the Arab soul, sense and body with my poetry. The relationships between men and women in our society are not healthy.” He is known as one of the most feminist and progressive intellectuals of his time.
The city of Damascus remained a powerful muse in his poetry, most notably in the Jasmine Scent of Damascus. The 1967 Arab defeat also influenced his poetry and his lament for the Arab cause.] The defeat marked a qualitative shift in Qabbani's work - from erotic love poems to poems with overt political themes of rejectionism and resistance. For instance, his poem Marginal Notes on the Book of Defeat, a stinging self-criticism of Arab inferiority, drew anger from both the right and left sides of the Arab political dialogue.
After graduating from law school, Qabbani worked for the Syrian Foreign Ministry, serving as Consul or cultural attaché in several capital cities, including Beirut, Cairo, Istanbul, Madrid, and London. In 1959, when the United Arab Republic was formed, Qabbani was appointed Vice-Secretary of the UAR for its embassies in China. He wrote extensively during these years and his poems from China were some of his finest. He continued to work in the diplomatic field until he tendered his resignation in 1966. By that time, he had established a publishing house in Beirut, which carried his name.
After the death of Balqis, Qabbani left Beirut. He was moving between Geneva and Paris, eventually settling in London, where he spent the last 15 years of his life. Qabbani continued to write poems and raise controversies and arguments. Notable controversial poems from this period in his life include When Will They Announce the Death of Arabs? and Runners.
In 1997, Nizar Qabbani suffered from poor health and briefly recovered from his sickness in late 1997. A few months later, at the age of 75, Nizar Qabbani died in London on April 30, 1998 of a heart attack. In his will, which he wrote in his hospital bed in London, Nizar Qabbani wrote that he wished to be buried in Damascus, which he described in his will as "the womb that taught me poetry, taught me creativity and granted me the alphabet of Jasmine."
Qabbani's poems continue the sixteen centuries old tradition of Arabic love poetry, but they are updated with modern experience and echo the rhythms, intonations, and idioms of everyday language. His early works Qabbani wrote in classical forms. Love is for Qabbani something that is mystical, but at the same time very sensual. "Strip naked... disrobe. / I am mute - / Your body knows all languages." (from 'The Book of Love') Qabbani could also use Christian images: "... I bleed in your love / Like Christ." ('Book of Love') Influenced by the Italian philosopher Benedetto Croce, he saw a poem as a painting- one collection was even entitled 'Drawing with Words' (Al-rasm bi-al-kalimat, 1966). Parvin Loloi has considered in Contemporary World Writers (1993), that Qabbani's "artistic achievement lies, in a manner familiar from classical Arabic poetry, in the creation of variations on the same theme-through its musicality, and in its variety of tone. Above all he has trodden ground where no Arab poet had dared to step before - seeking to revolutionize women's attitude towards their own sexuality." Salma Khadra Jayyusi wrote in her introduction to Modern Arabic Poetry: "His abundant love poetry is the major source of hope that the human heart can finally transcend pain and fear and dare to assert its capacity to summon joy and engage passion. His poetry brings freedom from tension, liberation from gloom, a refreshing release of laughter and gaiety. Above all, it proudly proclaims a new reverence for the body; it washes away the traditional embarrassment, now many centuries old, which was linked to woman's physical passion
• “Our shouting is louder than our actions, Our swords are taller than us, This is our tragedy. In short We wear the cape of civilisation But our souls live in the stone age”
• “Keep silent . . the most beautiful voice , is the talk of your hand on the table."
• “Never believe a man can change a woman those men are pretenders who think that they created women from one of their ribs”
• “Light is more important than the lantern, The poem more important than the notebook”
• “Because my love for you is beyond words, I decided to shut up.”
• “Your love taught me to grieve and I have been needing, for centuries a woman to make me grieve for a woman, to cry upon her arms like a sparrow for a woman to gather my pieces like shards of broken crystal”
• Nizar Qabbani - A Lesson in Drawing (My favorite poem) My son places his paint box in front of me and asks me to draw a bird for him. Into the color gray I dip the brush and draw a square with locks and bars. Astonishment fills his eyes: "… But this is a prison, Father, Don't you know, how to draw a bird?" And I tell him: "Son, forgive me. I've forgotten the shapes of birds."
My son puts the drawing book in front of me and asks me to draw a wheatstalk. I hold the pen and draw a gun. My son mocks my ignorance, demanding, "Don't you know, Father, the difference between a wheatstalk and a gun?" I tell him, "Son, once I used to know the shapes of wheatstalks the shape of the loaf the shape of the rose But in this hardened time the trees of the forest have joined the militia men and the rose wears dull fatigues In this time of armed wheatstalks armed birds armed culture and armed religion you can't buy a loaf without finding a gun inside you can't pluck a rose in the field without its raising its thorns in your face you can't buy a book that doesn't explode between your fingers."
My son sits at the edge of my bed and asks me to recite a poem, A tear falls from my eyes onto the pillow. My son licks it up, astonished, saying: "But this is a tear, father, not a poem!" And I tell him: "When you grow up, my son, and read the diwan of Arabic poetry you'll discover that the word and the tear are twins and the Arabic poem is no more than a tear wept by writing fingers."
My son lays down his pens, his crayon box in front of me and asks me to draw a homeland for him. The brush trembles in my hands and I sink, weeping.
• Childhood of a Breast (1948) • Samba (1949) • You Are Mine (1950) • Poems (1956) • My Beloved (1961) • Drawing with Words (1966) • Diary of an Indifferent Woman (1968) • Savage Poems (1970) • Book of Love (1970) • 100 Love Letters (1970) • Poems Against The Law (1972) • I Love You, and the Rest is to Come (1978) • To Beirut the Feminine, With My Love (1978) • May You Be My Love For Another Year (1978) • I Testify That There Is No Woman But you (1979) • Secret Diaries of Baheyya the Egyptian (1979) • I Write the History of Woman Like So (1981) • The Lover's Dictionary (1981) • A Poem For Balqis (1982) • Love Does Not Stop at Red Lights (1985) • Insane Poems (1985) • Poems Inciting Anger (1986) • Love Shall Remain My Lord (1987) • The Trilogy of the Children of the Stones (1988) • Secret Papers of a Karmathian Lover (1988) • Biography of an Arab Executioner (1988) • I Married You, Liberty! (1988) • A Match in My Hand , And Your Petty Paper Nations (1989) • No Victor Other Than Love (1989) • Do You Hear the Cry of My Sadness? (1991) • Marginal Notes on the Book of Defeat (1991) • I'm One Man and You are a Tribe of Women (1992) • Fifty Years of Praising Women (1994) • Nizarian Variations of Arabic Maqam of Love (1995) • Alphabet of Jasmine (1998)
HOPE YOU LIKED IT!
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