Poems from Ahmed Fu’ad Nigm for January 25

Over at Egyptian Chronicles, Zeinobia is counting down the hours to Jan. 25. And indeed, the pull of the Police Day protests is irresistible. So, in honor, I wanted to post some colloquial protest poetry (in translation).

However, I’ve found that even the poetry of the best-known people’s poets, such as Ahmad Fuad Nigm, is little-translated.Well, Marilyn Booth has some compelling translations, but her paper about him screams NO CITATIONS WITHOUT THE AUTHOR’S PREVIOUS CONSENT. You can click over and read it. But shhh.

Ahmed Fu’ad Nigm, or Al Fagoumy, was born in Sharqia in 1929, and thus has been in a position to criticize more Egyptian rulers than most of us. When a radio producer told Nigm that a poem of his didn’t have a single reference to then-president Anwar Sadat, Nigm apparently answered:

I am writing about martyrs; let him become a martyr and I will write about him.

This anecdote is lifted from Kamal Abdel-Malek’s A Study of the Vernacular Poetry of Ahmad Fu’ad Nigm (1990). Abdel-Malek has translated some of Negm’s work, although mostly bits and bobs, and mostly for “meaning” and not for rhythm or enjoyment or a love of the words.

But such is what we’ve got:

Creator, you know our adversities.
Purveyor, who counts our steps,
We ask for a favour
Out of your generosity
We ask that your justice
And your power be manifested
We ask that a fellah from among us rise up
To pluck out our effendi
And our thief.

يا خالقنا وعالم بلاوينا
يا رازقنا
وحاسب خطاوينا
نسأل فضلك
من إحسانك
يظهر عدلك
يطلع فلاح من وسطينا
يزعط أفندينا

Arabic version taken from ArabPoetry.Blogspot.Com. It was apparently written in 1986, five years after Hosni Mubarak assumed Egypt’s presidency.

I’m sure many of you have better protest poetry than this. So…


صيده للضحك على سعد الصغير فى اغنيه بحبك يا حمار


  1. Do you mean poetry in Arabic, poetry by Arab writers translated into English or international protest poetry writers in general?
    I read a lot and I am sixty five. I have been following the career of Mahmoud Darwish, one of the greatest poets of the late twentieth century since 1976. What is remarkable about Darwish is that he write all kinds of poetry, as did the great Pablo Neruda. I think his protest poetry is among the finest of all time anywhere. I also think that Adonis and Samih al Qasim write outstanding protest poetry. I think al Qasim is one of the most underrated poets in the world. How is it that his work remained untranslated into English until l2007? That is simply ridiculous and robbing the world of one of its most gifted and astute and moving poets.

    1. Certainly Palestinians like Darwish and al-Qasim have some great protest pieces, as do the Barghoutis. But I was hoping for some Egyptian protest poetry, mostly of the colloquial sort.

      Today’s the day for it!

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