Nazik Al-Malaikah…
The Iraqi Flute

By: Abbas Baydoun

Translated by Adib S. Kawar

Nazik Al-Malaikah, the great pioneering Iraqi Arab poet, is the victim of American colonialism. She had to desert her occupied and shattered land and her terrorized people in Mesopotamia. A land which had contributed more to universal culture and heritage than other lands. So-called "freedom"and "democracy" destroyed this great land’s culture, people and unity.
The so-called “liberators” brought to this land and its people the worst type of terrorism, which Holaco himself failed to bring to it…

Nazik Al-Malaikah had to desert her beloved land to escape with her life as millions of others, her compatriots.  She passed away in Egyptyearning to see her birthplace, the great, fallen Baghdad.

The passing away of Nazik Al-Malaikah followed an absence that started a long time ago; seclusion, illness and old age kept her away from poetry and life itself. It was painful that there was nothing left except the news of her passing away, that no one asked about her - for the fact that she was no more. Even the Arab poetry conference was held and ended in Cairo without mentioning her name. It could be our chronic undutifulness, it could be the undutifulness of life and time, and the news of her death was but a final point for this absence that has lasted such a long time.

We should be called to rescue her out of forced oblivion. We shall not say that she had finished something that was gone long ago, nor that an era was lost with her absence from the world of poetry.  It is clear that in history this brilliant and exceptional woman's presence has no clear place. It is sorrowful that nothing remained of Nazik Al-Malaikah except contention about this pioneer. It was confirmed, but there was nothing more than conflict about it, a trial and modernity, which became part of the archives, and besides this a late objection to innovation that she thought had gotten out of control and jumped over the fence.

It is regretful that there is nothing left of Nazik Al-Malaikah except signs of unrecorded history; we don’t find anything other than that which is buried and secluded, nothing more than certificates of people’s readings and reviews. The anachronism of this modernity is that it is no longer in the opinion of its founders and those who called for it, and thus it remains without a library, without a memory and no heritage. What is now affecting Nazik Al-Malaikah today is a curse that targeted all these : As-Sayyab, Hawi, Abed Al-Sabour and Kabbani, who obtanined no more than eulogies. The passage of time did not permit their rereading or interpretation.

Let us return with Nazik Al-Malaikah to Iraq of the fifties, a time, the birthplace of outstanding works in history in the arts of music, poetry and the fine art of painting and sculpture.  It is possible that much pioneering was done there although it is universally agreed that all of that did not come out extemporarily; on the contrary it was built on bases that are almost a reality. And it is connected and analogous to things that form, between their boundaries, a world. The musical, painting and sculptural works could have been driven by a common enthusiasm, which is a sort of reproduction of the actual; composing a second story for Iraqi life, and a second vision that redraws the past in the present, and history in the popular scene. The history of Jawad Ali, the ornamentations of Jawad Salim, the music of the two Bashir brothers and the poetry of As-Sayyab and Al-Malaikah are nothing but analogous and similar to this enthusiasm.

It is not strange that Iraqi enthusiasm sprang from the womb of a suffering that gave birth to many poetesses and which brought to the arena Nazik Al-Malaikah, Lami’a Amarah and Atika Al-Khuzarji, who are without exaggeration great poets. It was not strange that such a poetess as Al-Malaikah could compete with another poet in pioneering, and in this case she is the initiator and she succeeded. Pioneering is not important in the first place if it doesn’t come as a mutation that is superseded by a respected and rich culture, and a special and unique poetic characteristic, which qualifies the poetess to make this leap. We don’t find a borderline between her column poetry (traditional Arabic poetry in which every line of it is divided into a first hemistich “Alsader” and the second hemistich “Alajez”) and its rhyming, because the matter here is in this classification. The column poetry of Nazik bears all the renovation in its momentum that is found in her scanned verse.

She is, here and there, putting a brake to the fervor of Arab poetry, and its belligerent warlike richness, as well as its oratory and approach to the masses, also,its confusion with other purposes such as teaching, its instigation of historical recording and its merger with the occasion. The poetess, who wrote in her column of poetry - the moon is “a soft and rich glass of milk”, did not need to say much more in her prosody verse. This doesn’t mean that the moon is a glass of milk; it opened up our imagination. This doesn’t mean that Al-Malaikah did not achieve anything in her prosody poetry (with foot of verse measure), but we shall not build a wall between a poet’s early, middle and late poetry. It doesn’t mean that it deprives her prosody of a special essentialism.

There is something in her prosody poetry that is not so distinct in her poem “THE CHOLERA” as much as it is distinct in her poem "THE PRAYER OF THE GHOSTS"; for example the ability of the poetess to limit her poem to a linguistic, sensational and spectacular pit without any inclination to ramification and dispersion that usually exhausts the modern poem. In her prosody there is an inclination for a clear singing, seriated, frank, argumentative, mature, sensational, courageous, identical, and an almost analogous a demeanor of sentimental intensity that is not trapped by superficial emotions and “chewed” words. Whatever is the situation, in spite of the paradox, we are facing a poetess. It would be unfair to Al-Malaikah to limit her to one historical milestone, though in spite of that, she succumbed to such an attribution. In fact she was exactly less than suitable for this contention. She is further ahead as a poetess and there is in her poetry a real exposure of a mature pure essence, of a rich and able woman. Thus with this poetess and with this essence and the person hereself, Nazik Al-Malaikah should be an outstanding figure in history.

But the years of solitude, absence and possibly unconsciousness are not enough to hide a woman with this brightness, intelligence, and her confrontational characterof protest and pioneering (meaning to be the followed and not a follower). Probably the final death of Nazik Al-Malaikah makes us understand that what she achieved was an exceptional special personality as a woman.

Source :
Assafir, June 22, 2007

Identity Card: The great Iraqi Arab Poetess Nazik Al-Malaikah (Angels)

The Arab Iraqi poetess, Nazik Al-Malaikah was born in Baghdad on 23 August 1923. She was brought up in a family full of culture and literature.

Her mother was the poetess, Salma Abdul Razzah (Umm Nizar), her father was man of letters and a researcher, Sadek Al-Malaikah. She spent her youth at home with her family in an atmosphere of culture  and literature. She left Iraqin the late fifties, after a series of coup d’etats at the time.

Nazik Al-Malaikah wrote a number of famous poems, important critiques, stories and her autobiography. The High Council of Culture recently published her complete works in Cairo.

After finishing secondary schooling, she joined the High Teachers College, from which she graduated in 1944 with honours. In 1950 she left for the United Stateswhere she studied the English language and literature, in addition to Arabic literature to get her Master’s degree in the latter field.

Upon her return to Iraq, she became an assistant professor in the college of education. She mastered the English, French, German, Latin in addition to the Arabic languages.

She got her Bachelor’s degree in the Arabic language from the High Teachers College in Baghdad, and her Master’s degree from Wisconsin Universitymajoring in comparative literature.

She represented Iraq in the Arab Conference of Writers in 1965.

She published seven collections of poems (Diwan in Arabic). Her last diwan, The Sea Changes its Colors, was published several times.

Her full works were published in two volumes and have had several editions.

She also wrote the following books:
The Affairs of Modern Poetry
Separatism in the Arab Society
The Red Hermitage and Balcony
The Psychology of Poetry

Several research works and thesis’s for many Arab and foreign universities were written about her.

She published her first diwan “The Lover of the Night" in 1947. The Arab critic Maroun Abboud said: “Deep grievance was the common factor between all its poems, whereever we sail among its poems you see a funeral, and you don’t hear anything except crying and sometimes wailing and agony.”

She published her second diwan “Shrapnel and Ashes” in 1947. According to her, “A big wave of uproar took place about it.”



By: Nazik Al-Malaikah
Translated by: Adib S. Kawar

Blow out the candle and leave us strangers here
We are two parts of the night, so what is the meaning of light?
Light falls on two fancies under the eyelids of the evening
Light falls on some shrapnels of hope
I was called we and I call myself I:
Hot ashes. We are here like light

The pale cold gathering is like a cold day
It was a murder for my anthems and a grave for my feelings
The clock rang in the darkness nine and then ten
And I with my pain hear and count. I was puzzled
Asking the clock what is the meaning of my happiness
If we spend the evenings, you know better…

Hours passed like in the past covered with withering
Like the unknown tomorrow, I don’t know is it dawn or dusk?
The hours passed and silence is like winter weather
Don’t you see? Our eyes are withering and cold
As if it is strangling me and oppressing my blood
As if uttering in me and saying
You two are under the storms of the evening

Blow out the candle, the two souls are in a thick night
Light falls on two faces colored like autumn
Don’t you see? Our eyes are withering and coldness
Don’t you hear? Our hearts are extension and extinguishing
Our silence is the echo of a frightening warning
Sarcastic from that we will return

We who brought us today? From where did we start?
Yesterday didn’t know we are comrades… Let us
Expel the memory as if it had never been from our youth
Some rash love passed by and forgot us
Oh… Wish we return where we where
Before we vanish and we are still