WORDS BY ANAAM IKRAM
I stand amazed.
to breach this
By Qassim Haddad
Translated by: Lena jayyusi and Christopber Middleton
Seldom do we understand the phrase “the pen is mightier than the sword”, however, Bahraini poet Qassim Haddad has proven time and again the importance and strength of the written word.
Born in 1948, Qassim Haddad rose to fame in the 1970s after publishing his first collection of poetry called Bishara (Good Omen), which, like most of his poetry that followed, was based on revolutionary and political themes such as freedom. Haddad, who did not complete his secondary education and has largely educated himself over the years, is notable within the Arab world for his free verse poetry and making significant contributions to poetry in the Arab world. He has helped evolve Arabic poetry modernism – an artistic movement which calls for the experimentation and change in the Arab literary world.
His rise to fame, however, has not been easy as some of his work was deemed too controversial. Haddad’s interpretation of the love story of Majnun and Layla is perhaps one his most criticised pieces as he offers a different, more modern perspective on the much-famed and widely known classic.
Though Haddad’s work may have been debatable for some, it has not stopped his work from being translated into several languages such as German, English, and French by respected poets such as Bassam Frangieh, Khaled Mattawa, and Christopher Middleton. The richness and power of his words not only display his strong feelings towards the idea of freedom and fight against oppression, but also his vision for modernity, humanitarianism, and a call for change. He manages to achieve all of this through his affluent vocabulary which creates textures and layers within his works giving them substance and weight and thus making them influential to this day.
Like reflections of a wedding
The evergreen hurried toward its branches, groaning until the last wound in its body You take a thread to sketch the air so the sparrows don’t fall.
A body pendulates between a woman of mutes and a woman overcrowded by mistakes so pure and clear it can draw, love in the stone of mountain roads,
it cheats the language.
The bush has to twist and turn and fall passionately in love.
Alone, the movement of the seeds quivers like a heart.
By Qassim Haddad
Translated by: Bassam Frangieh
His works have also garnered him much recognition and numerous awards, such as the prestigious Owais Cultural Foundation Prize for poetry in 2002, by which time he was already one of the most celebrated Bahraini authors. According to the General Secretariat, Haddad’s poetry “…represents a model of neo-creativity that marked its beginning in the last quarter of the twentieth century. He stands for a new vision that deals with life in a modern way, taking into consideration the progress of the human being. Haddad was prolific for over three decades, and tried to create a new form in response to the requirements of the era.” Rightfully making the award his.
Qassim Haddad not only has written poetry, but has also published over 16 books including Chronicles of Majnun Laila and Selected Poems – which was quite recently translated by American University of Cairo professor Ferial Gazoul and won the King Fahd Centre for Middle East and Islamic Studies Translation of Arabic Literature Award 2013 – Critique of Hope (published in Beirut), Theatre in Bahrain, Experience and Horizon (published in 1980 in Bahrain), a book on painting, and a book of poetry in collaboration with late Saudi photographer Saleh Al Gazzaz. Some of his famous works of poetry include: The Second Blood (Beirut, 1975), Walking Guarded with Ibexes (Bahrain, 1986), Qassims’s Grave (Bahrain 1997), Loving Heart, The Doomsday, Belongings and Nahrawan. Throughout his work, Haddad has constantly addressed the political themes in the Arab world.
Apart from being a renowned writer, Qassim Haddad also is the founder of the Bahraini Writer’s Union, he also constantly contributes to newspapers and periodicals, and is a member of the editorial committee of Kalemat (which is issued by Bahrain Writer’s Association). Additionally he has also participated in various Arabic and International conferences and symposiums on poetry and writing.
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