Badr Shakir al-Sayyab

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Statue of Badr Shakir al-Sayyab in Basra

Badr Shakir al Sayyab (Arabic: بدر شاكر السياب‎‎) (December 24, 1926 – 1964) was an Iraqi and Arab poet. Bornهنالواقثن in Jekor, a town south of Basra in Iraq, he was the eldest child of a date grower and shepherd.[1] He graduated from the Higher teachers training college of Baghdad in 1948.[2] Badr Shakir was dismissed from his teaching post for being a member of the Iraqi Communist Party.[3] He is one of the leading Iraqi poets and authors and is very well known and famous for his works throughout all of the Arab world and has been regarded as one of the most influential Arab poets of all time. His works have been translated in more than 10 languages including Arabic, English, Farsi, Somali, Urdu.


Badr Shakir al-Sayyab was one of the greatest poets in Arabic literature, whose experiments helped to change the course of modern Arabic poetry. At the end of the 1940s he launched, with Nazik al-Mala'ika, and shortly followed by ʿAbd al-Wahhāb al-Bayātī and Shathel Taqa, the free verse movement and gave it credibility with the many fine poems he published in the fifties.[4][5] These included the famous "Rain Song," which was instrumental in drawing attention to the use of myth in poetry. He revolutionized all the elements of the poem and wrote highly involved political and social poetry, along with many personal poems. The Palestinian poet Mahmoud Darwish was greatly impressed and influenced by the poetry of Badr Shakir al-Sayyab.[6]

The publication of his third volume, Song of Rain, in 1960 was one of the most significant events in contemporary Arabic poetry. He started his career as a Marxist, but reverted to mainstream nationalism without ever becoming fanatical. While still in his thirties, he was struck by a degenerative nervous disorder and died in poverty. He produced seven collections of poetry and several translations, which include the poetry of Louis Aragon, Nazim Hikmet, and Edith Sitwell, who, with T. S. Eliot, had a profound influence on him.[3]

Badr went to England for the first time in Autumn of 1962, at a time when his health was deteriorating. He attended Durham University for translation studies [1].

Badr Shakir al-Sayyab announced Bakathir's earlier experiments to the literary world and stated that Nazik al-Malaikah's claim to the discovery of free verse for herself was entirely false. Bakathir hit on the secret of the freedom from the two-hemistich format in the mid 1930s. He used fractured (caesura) poetry for the first time in Arabic poetry. Ali Ahamad Bakathir (1910-69) in the second edition of his book "Akhnatun wa Nefertiti" mentions al_sayyab's acknowledgement.[7]


  • Wilting Flowers (أزهار ذابلة, 1947)
  • Hurricanes (أعاصير, 1948)
  • Flowers and myths (أزهار وأساطير, 1950)
  • Dawn of Peace (فجر السلام, 1951)
  • The Grave Digger (Long Poem) (حفار القبور, 1952)
  • The Blind Prostitute (المومس العمياء, 1954)
  • Weapons and Children (الأسلحة والأطفال, 1955)
  • Rain song (انشودة المطر, 1960)
  • The Drowned Temple (1962, المعبد الغريق)
  • Alaguenan? Home (1963)
  • (1964, شناشيل ابنة الجلبي)

Suggested reading[edit]

  1. Placing the Poet: Badr Shakir Al-Sayyab and Postcolonial Iraq by Terri DeYoung State University of New York Press (31 May 1998) ISBN 0-7914-3732-9


  1. ^ Humboldt Biography
  2. ^ Encyclopaedia of Arabic Literature: K-Z By Julie Scott Meisami, Paul Starkey Contributor Julie Scott Meisami, Paul Starkey Published by Taylor & Francis, 1998 ISBN 0-415-18572-6 p 696
  3. ^ a b Divine Inspiration: The Life of Jesus in World Poetry By Robert Atwan, George Dardess, Peggy Rosenthal Published by Oxford University Press US, 1997 ISBN 0-19-509351-8 p 177
  4. ^ Badr Shakir al-Sayyab and the Free Verse Movement, by Issa J. Boullata 1970 Cambridge University Press.
  5. ^ Modern Arabic Literature By Paul Starkey Published by Edinburgh University Press, 2006 ISBN 0-7486-1290-4 p 80
  6. ^ Guardian 11 August 2008 Mahmoud Darwish by Peter Clark
  7. ^ Qisar M.M. Badawai modern Arabic Literature Cambridge University Press 2006

External links[edit]