Taha Muhammad Ali

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Taha Muhammad Ali (Arabic: طه محمد علي‎) (born 1931 in Saffuriyya, Galilee – October 2, 2011 in Nazareth) was a Palestinian poet.[1]


Taha Muhammad Ali fled to Lebanon with his family when he was seventeen after their village came under heavy bombardment during the 1948 Arab-Israeli War. The following year, he returned to Nazareth, where he lived till his death.[2] In the 1950s and 1960s, he sold souvenirs during the day to Christian pilgrims and studied poetry at night. His formal education ended after fourth grade. He was owner of a small souvenir shop near the Church of the Annunciation which he operated with his sons, Muhammad Ali wrote vividly of his childhood in Saffuriyya and the political upheavals he survived.

Literary career[edit]

A collection of his work in English translation (with facing Arabic), So What: New & Selected Poems, 1971–2005, translated by Peter Cole, Yahya Hijazi, and Gabriel Levin, was published by Copper Canyon Press in 2006. A British edition of the same book appeared with Bloodaxe Books. German and French translations are underway. He has given numerous readings with Cole in the US and Europe.[3] Muhammad Ali is the subject of a biography published by Yale University Press, My Happiness Bears No Relation to Happiness: A Poet's Life in the Palestinian Century by Adina Hoffman.[4] The Palestinian-Israeli novelist Anton Shammas has translated a collection of Taha Muhammad Ali's work into Hebrew.

Poetic style[edit]

Muhammad Ali's style has been described in the introduction to his English collection as "forceful" and written "in short lines of varying beats with a minimum of fuss and a rich array of images drawn primarily from his village life."

In a review of So What: New & Selected Poems, he is described as a "beguiling story-teller who maintains a tone of credibility and lucidity without diluting the mysterious or distressing aspects of his tale...By avoiding commonplace response to everyday experience he has written poems that are fragile and graceful and fresh."[5]


Amer Hlehel conducts a show, “Taha”, commemorating Tahai Muhammad Ali's life and poetry, and particularly the latter's experience of the nakba. The English-language premiere was performed on the 16 of March 2017 at the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts in Washington DC. [6]

Published work[edit]

  • translated by Peter Cole; Yahya Hijazi & Gabriel Levin (2006). So What: New & Selected Poems, 1971–2005. ISBN 1-55659-245-0. 
  • Never Mind: Twenty Poems and a Story. 2000. ISBN 965-90125-2-7. 
  • The Fourth Qasida. 
  • Fooling the Killers. 
  • Fire in the Convent Garden. 


See also[edit]


External links[edit]