‘Adonis at 90’: A Digital, Poetic, Global Celebration

On January 1 of this year, the poet Adonis celebrated his 91st:

Last year, 2020, marked the year of Adonis’s ninetieth, and on December 31, 2020 — at the very end of his 90th year — celebratory videos were uploaded to the website adonis90.org.

The event organizers write of the Syrian-French poet, who is often mentioned as a candidate for the Nobel Prize for Literature:

Adonis’s birthday represents a moment of reflection for our existence: it pertains to the role of poetry, the belief in humanity at its fullest, the role of the past and of modernity.  To celebrate this moment, a collective of artists, thinkers, actors of world intellectual life, comes together to each give a birthday video to Adonis, to demonstrate the importance of a poetic life in a changing world – one that is at risk of cultural and human impoverishment. This invitation is developed at the initiative of Donatien Grau and with the participation of Arwad Esber.

There are more than 140 videos in all. Among those who made statements are translators of Adonis’s work Kareem James Abu-Zeid and Khaled Mattawa (English), Mehmet Hakki Suçin (Turkish), Houria Abdelouahed (French), Federico Arbos (Spanish), as well as poets Abbas Beydoun, Qasim Haddad, Fowziyah Abu Khalid, Amal Al-Jubouri, Bei Dao, and Rafael Cadenas, writers Mo Yan, Hoda Barakat, Rawi Hage, and Peter Handke, artists such as Dia al-Azzawi and Mona Hatoum, as well as philosophers, scholars, publishers, curators, musicians, critics, and many others.

Perhaps the most interesting videos are from China: Scholar Wu Hao, for instance, speaks about Adonis’s impact on Chinese readers; Nobel laureate Mo Yan talks about a discussion the two had about the future of humanity; poet Bei Dao said, “In addition to poetry, we also exchange our views on visual language”; artist Chen Yu, like many others, expressed wishes for Adonis’s health and happiness.

According to organizers:

Through their words, their creative gestures, the participants will show the importance of poetry, and what it implies, for each of our lives; what the power of a poet telling our world can bring today to our existences as we are all separated, around the world, without any possible community.

Adonis has two major collections out in English, Adonis: Selected Poems (tr. Khaled Mattawa) and Songs of Mihyar the Damascene (tr. Kareem James Abu-Zeid and Ivan Eubanks).


Adonis. 1971. The Blood of Adonis. Translated by Samuel Hazo. Pittsburgh:  University of Pittsburgh Press.

——. 1994. The Pages of Day and Night. Translated by Samuel Hazo. Evanston, Ill:  Northwestern University Press.

——. 2003. If Only the Sea Could Sleep: Love Poems. Translated by Kamal Boullata, Susan Einbinder and Mirène Ghossein.  Los Angeles: Green Integer.

——. 2004. A Time Between Ashes & Roses. Translated by Shawkat M. Toorawa. Syracuse:  Syracuse University Press.

——. 2008. Mihyar of Damascus: His Songs. Translated with introduction by Adnan Haydar and Michael Beard.  Rochester, NY:  BOA Editions, Ltd.