Ahmed Matar

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Ahmed Matar
Born 1954
Tanoma, Basra
Nationality Iraqi
Other names شاعر النهرين
Occupation Poet
Known for poetry

Ahmed Mattar (Arabic أحمد مطر, born 1954) is a revolutionary Iraqi poet who has been living in exile for decades, most recently in London.

His poetry is very critical of the Arab rulers, lack of freedoms, the use of torture, clinging to power at all costs. He also laments the general situation of the Arab societies.[1]

Early life[edit]

Mattar was born in Tanoma, a small city in southern Iraq in Basra governance. He is the fourth of ten children. He is married and has three sons and a daughter.[2]

Poetry[edit]

Mattar started composing poetry early in his life when he was fourteen. His first poems were mostly romantic before he turns to choose politics as his main subject. He recited long poems on stage where he actually openly criticized the status quo. This, however, forced him to flee early in his life to Kuwait.

Life in Kuwait and career[edit]

He moved to Kuwait in his mid-twenties where he worked as a cultural editor for the newspaper Al-Qabas[3]. He continued composing poems in his own journal before they were finally published in Al-Qabas. He then befriended the caricaturist Naji Al Ali,[4] who also worked for Al-Qabas. The two artists shared an ideological and artistic vision, loving and hating the same things.[5]

Exile[edit]

Due to his harsh criticism of the Arab status quo and its ideology, Mattar has again had to flee Kuwait, as has his close friend Naji Al Ali, who had to leave the country because of his caricatures. In 1986, Mattar finally settled in London, his last destination in exile.[6] Despite rumors of his death, his relatives have reported on Twitter that he is still alive[7].

On his poetry, Mattar said I didn't intend to make myself a school when I first started writing poetry; I just wanted to say the truth... and I did. I now can assure you that readers can tell my poetry without my name been attached to it.

Poetry in the time of action[edit]

In this commentary he made after the Arab Uprisings in 2011, Ahmed Matar speaks eloquently about poetry in the context of action:

"Poetry is not an Arab regime that falls with the death of the ruler. And it's also not an alternative to action. It's an art form whose job is agitating, exposing, and witnessing reality, and aspiring beyond the present. Poetry comes before action. Then poetry catches up. Poetry lights the road, and guides our deeds. Back in the day, Nassr Bin Seyar said, “Indeed, war begins with speech.” In reality, speech surrounds war from its beginning to its end through awareness, instigation, and glorification. Indeed, action needs the influence of sincere speech. Because its absence means filling the space with contradictory speech. And we know that this contradictory speech is always present and active, even while truth exists. So, imagine that the space was entirely void of truth. There is no resistance on the face of earth that would dispense the poet for the fighter. Every living resistance realizes that there is no use for bloodshed without a moral conscience. The history of our people is the greatest witness to the importance of the poet’s role in war. The fighter has always sharpened both his sword and tongue.”[8]

Ahmed Matar's poetry in translation[edit]

Despite his significance and popularity in the Arab world, Ahmed Matar's name and works are not as well known as those of many other Arab poets. Individual efforts have been made by his readers and admirers to make his works available to English readers.

Some of his poetry translated to English:

  • The Hope الأمل[9]
  • People of exile منفيون[10]
  • The defector المنشق[11]
  • My friend Hassan صاحبي حسن[12]
  • A tear over the dead body of freedom دمعة على جثمان الحرية[13]
  • Takfir and the revolution التكفير و الثورة[14]
  • Even more brutal than execution أقسى من الإعدام[15]

References[edit]