John Asfour

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John Mikhail Asfour
Born 1945
Aitaneat, Lebanon
Occupation Poet, writer, teacher
Nationality Lebanese-Canadian

John Asfour (Arabic: جون عصفور‎) (born in 1945 in Aitaneat, Lebanon) (died in 2014 in Montreal, Quebec, Canada) was a Lebanese–Canadian poet, writer, and teacher. At the age of 13, a grenade exploded in his face injuring his eyes during the Lebanese crisis of 1958.[1][2]

He moved to Canada in 1968.[3] He is a former professor of literature residing in Montreal, Quebec, Canada.

He is the author of 5 volumes of poetry in English, and two in Arabic, he has selected, edited and translated into English the landmark anthology When the Words Burn: An Anthology of Modern Arabic Poetry and co-authored with Alison Burch a volume of selected poems by Muhammad al-Maghut entitled Joy is not my Profession.

In 2005 and 2007, he organized and held two conferences on Arab Immigrants, their rights and duties for the Ministry of Immigration of Quebec.

He resided in Montreal, Quebec.[4]


  • F.G. Bressani Literary Prize
  • Canada Council for the Arts Joseph Staford award,
  • 2009: Inaugural Writer-in-Residence, Historic Joy Kogawa House, Vancouver B.C.[5]
  • 2001–2004: Chair of the Advisory Committee on Arab and Moslem Affairs for the Ministry of Canadian Multiculturalism
  • 1996–2002: President of the Canadian Arab Federation


John Asfour Publications include:



2014: Les Yeux Bandés par John Asfour traduit par Jean-Pierre Pelletier éditions Le Noroît, 95 pp.

2009: Nisan : poésie par John Asfour traduit par Nadine Ltaif éditions Le Noroît, 103 pp.


2016: Mirrors of Absence, Guernica, 2015

2012: V6A: Writing from Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside Edited by: John Mikhail Asfour and Elee Kraljii Gardiner, forward by Gary Geddes Arsenal Pulp Press, Vancouver, B.C.

2011: Blindfold

2009: Thursdays 2: Writings from the Carnegie Centre Edited by: Elee Kraljii Gardiner and John Mikhail Asfour Otter Press, Vancouver, B.C.

1997: Fields of My Blood (poetry), Emperyal Press, Montreal, Quebec, Canada

1994: Joy is Not My Profession: Selected Poems of Muhammad al-Maghut, trans. and introd. Co-author A. Burch, Véhicule Press, Montreal, Quebec, Canada

1994 and 1995: Corridors: A Concordia Anthology (poetry & fiction), Assoc. Editor. Downtown Press, Montreal.

1992: One Fish From the Rooftop (poetry), Cormorant Books, Maxville, Canada. winner of the 1994 F.G. Bressani Literary Prize (Vancouver, B.C.). Trans. into Arabic as Samakah min ala al-sath (see below)

1988, 1992: When The Words Burn: An Anthology of Modern Arabic Poetry, & 1993, 1995 1945 – 1987, selected, translated into English and introd., Cormorant Books, Maxville, Canada. Second ed., 1992.

• Short-listed for the League of Poets Award (1990) and the John Glassco Award for Translation (1990) • Published for distribution in the Middle East by American Univ. in Cairo Press, Cairo, Egypt (1993), and by Inforium Press, Ankara, Turkey (1995)

1981: Land of Flowers and Guns (poetry), introd. Louis Dudek, D.C. Books, Montreal, Quebec, Canada. Trans. into Arabic as Wurud wa-banadiq (see below)

1976: Nisan: A Book of Poetry, Fiddlehead Books, Univ. of New Brunswick Press, Fredericton, Canada


2000: Wurud wa-banadiq (Flowers and Guns; trans. from English to Arabic). Author & trans. Co-translator Hatim Salman. Bisan Press, Beirut and Damascus.

2000: Samakah min ala al-sath (One Fish from the Rooftop; trans. from English to Arabic). Author & trans. Co-translator Abd al-Hakim Ajhar. Bisan Press, Beirut and Damascus.

2002: Hariq al-Kalimat (When the Words Burn; trans. from English to Arabic). Trans. Mona Fadel. Amwaj Press, Beirut and Damascus.



2008: Saadi Youssef: a poet in exile, The Montreal Gazette, Montreal Canada

2005: Muhammad al-Maghut: the voice of the voiceless, The Montreal Gazette, Montreal Canada

1993: Entry for “Muhammad al-Maghut” in the Encyclopedia of World Literature in the Twentieth Century, New York (The Continuum Publishing Company), Vol. V., pp. 402–03. Ed. Steven Serafin & Walter Glanze

1989: “Adonis and Muhammad al Maghut: Two Voices in a Burning Land,” Journal of Arabic Literature, Glasgow, Scotland, Vol. XX, pp. 10–30. (Refereed)

1989: “Muhammad al Maghut and the Surplus Man,” Edebiyat, (Univ. of Penn.), New Series Vol. I, No. 2, pp. 23–40. Co-author A. Burch

Poems & Translations: (English)

1987 ff.: Poems and translations in: • North American periodicals—e.g., PRISM international, Zymergy, Mizna, Parnassus, Chelsea, Absynthe • newspapers—e.g., The Toronto Star, The Globe and Mail, The Ottawa Citizen, the Gazette

• anthologies—e.g., The Signal Anthology, Montreal (Véhicule Press, 1993); TransLit Calgary (ATIA, 1994)

• literary broadcasts—radio (BBC, CJAD, CJFM) and television (CF Cable, CBC)


  1. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on February 9, 2010. Retrieved February 19, 2010. 
  2. ^ Montreal Gazette: Poetic voices from near and far – Different traditions, styles and themes are on display
  3. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on May 14, 2011. Retrieved February 19, 2010. 
  4. ^
  5. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on May 5, 2010. Retrieved February 19, 2010. 

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