The charming and beloved Iraqi poet Lamia Abbas Amara has died in the hospital after a struggle with illness, according to news reports. She was 92:
In the early morning hours of June 12, the great Iraqi poet Saadi Youssef died in London; today, June 18, Lamia Abbas Amara has died in San Diego, where she lived.
Lamia Abbas Amara was from a poetic family — she was cousin to the well-known Iraqi poet Abdul Razak Abdul Wahed — and she started writing poetry while a young teen. She graduated from Baghdad’s Higher Teacher’s College in 1950 and, for many years, taught Arabic.
Her three most widely read poetry collections are: The Empty Corner, I Am Iraqi, and Had the Fortune-teller Told Me.
She has written both formal and free verse, and she’s said that that, while formal verse is the way to communicate with others, she prefers writing free verse, which she felt brought her closer to her audience. Many of her poems were made into songs.
In the mid-twentieth century, she was one of the poets who gathered at the home of Iraqi writer Hayat Sharara, along with Badr Shakir al-Sayyab, Muhammad Mahdi al-Jawahiri, and Nazik al-Mala’ika, among others. She was a particular friend of the Sharara family.
In the introduction to Hayat Sharara’s When Darkness Falls, her sister Balkis Sharara writes of these meetings, and the poets’ relationships with each other:
His [Badr Shakri al-Sayyab’s] love for Lamia Abbas Amara wasn’t a secret, and it was clear in the poems that he recited in the meetings. Amara knew about his feelings for her, and she would look at him with her beautiful eyes, which hid their endless meanings. Lamia Abbas Amara was beautiful, tall, slim, with large black eyes and dark black hair, and she mostly wore black dresses. Amara was confident and had a sense of humor. Her personality, her way of using body language, and the way her voice rose and fell as she recited poetry created a magic atmosphere that took over the audience. Her poems were short, sensitive, and their main subject was love.
Lamia Abbas Sharara was a member of the Board of Directors of the Iraqi Writers Association between 1963 and 75, and deputy to the Iraqi representative for UNESCO in Paris from 1973-75.
In a 2008 interview, Emirati writer Salha Obaid Ghabesh talked about why she loved the Iraqi poet’s work:
I love her poems very much, particularly the one which is written in the form of a dialogue between [the poet] and a fortune-teller as to whether he had foreseen that she would lose the one she loved. Later in the poem, she blames the fortune-teller for not warning her earlier so that she could have avoided the misery she has gone through. The text is full of mystery, suspense and imagination.’
ArabLit contributor Hend Saeed translated “Had the Fortune-teller Told Me” to English in 2008; you can also hear the poet perform it.
Please fix the article, my aunt Lamea Abbas Amara died at home in San Diego, California surrounded by her family.
Our apologies — will correct it right now.
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