March 21 marks world Arab Poetry Day, which was first established in 2015. It is celebrated simultaneously with World Poetry Day and is a time to reflect on the great poets of the world and their impact on society.
Here are some of the great Arab poets over time.
Known as Al-Khansa, this 7th-centruy tribeswoman was one of the most influential poets during the pre-Islamic and early Islamic periods.
She wrote elegies for the dead and performed them for her tribe. It was these elegies that gained her stardom and she is widely considered one of the best female Arab poets of all time. Her poetry was recorded by Muslim scholars and she later embraced the religion. Her poetry revolved around despair and the inevitable death we all face.
This 13th century poet’s influence extends over time, religion, borders and culture. His spiritual legacy is widely known and his works have been translated into most of the world’s languages. Rumi believed that music, poetry and dance was a way to reach God and centuries later his binding words continue their impactful legacy.
Mahmoud Darwish (1941-2008)
Darwish was a Palestinian poet who was widely considered Palestine’s national poet. He used Palestine as a metaphor for the loss of Eden, birth and resurrection. He published his first book of poetry, ‘Wingless Birds’ when he was just 19. Over the course of his life he has published more than 30 books of poetry and 8 books of prose. He considered himself a political activist and has had several controversies around his published works.
Mohammed Abdel Bari (1985 - present)
This Sudanese poet and literary writer drew inspiration from various traditions including Sufism and philosophy. He published three collections of poems and he has won several literary awards across the Arab world. He is widely considered one of the most influential voices in contemporary classical Arabic poetry.
Maram al-Masri (1962 – present)
Born into a well-known Sunni Muslim family, Al-Masri wrote poetry from a young age to distinguish herself from other girls. She had her first collection of poetry published in 1984 and in 1997 she became well-known with her book, ‘A red cherry on a white-tiled floor.’ Her style is direct and breaks the conventions of Arabic poetry about love.