Yemeni Poet Abdul Aziz Al-Maqaleh died today in Sana’a, according to multiple news outlets, after a struggle with illness. He was eighty-five.
Yemen’s best-known and most-laureled twentieth-century poet, was a pioneer of Yemeni poetry unconstrained by forms of an earlier era.
Al-Maqaleh was born in the village of Maqaleh in 1937 and went on to study in Egypt, earning his Master’s and PhD at Ain Shams University. Later, he worked in education, and as a cultural adviser to the government, as he wrote poems that both engaged Yemeni tradition and transformed it.
Al-Maqaleh was author of more than 15 poetry collections. Among his best-known are Sana’a by all Means, A Letter to Saif Bin Dhi Yazen, The Return of Wadhah Al-Yemen, Papers of a Body Returning from Death, The Alphabet of the Soul, and Sana’a. He also published a number of literary studies, such as A Reading of Yemeni Literature and The Crisis of the Arabic Poem.
According to Zaid al-Alaya, writing in the now-defunct Yemen Observer, “Critics say that the simplicity of his words and the abundant meaning that they carry give his poetry a power that penetrates the hearts of people. The main focus of his poems is the state of the average person. His poetry is a spontaneous overflowing of powerful emotions, all recollected in tranquility in the eloquent Arabic language.”
“Poem 47 Of The Book Of Sanaa,” which appeared in The Marlboro Review, in translation by Huda Fakhreddine and Jayson Iwen, opens:
The spirit of this city floats
On the water of years.
Do not wake her
Let her moan while her children drown.
Do not light her pale alleys,
For the streets are still wet
With the sweet blood of martyrs
Who died for their homeland,
And turned the pages of life too soon
In March 2011, Dr. al-Maqaleh wrote a poem about a recent event known as “Bloody Friday” in Yemen; Stephen Day translated the poem, “The Betrayal,” for Jadaliyya.