Many of us will maybe recognize Nizar Qabbani’s name from the many poems that have been circulating on the internet lately. Few, on the other hand, really know who the man behind these beautiful poems was.
Nizar Qabbani was born on 21/03/1923, in Damascus, Syria. This was also the beginning of the birth of a modern Syrian state. He came from a well-of family. His father, Tawfiq Qabbani, was widely known as a respected man and he also financed the national movement, which he was also a member of. So the house of Tawfiq Qabbani was used for secret meetings of resistance movements. At the age of 10, Nizar’s father was arrested by French soldiers and taken away for a while. The example of his father, who was willing to sacrifice himself for political and social freedom, laid also on the foundation of his work and up to a point, it influenced his poetry.
The suicide of his older sister, Wissal Qabbani, was also one of the reasons for the many love poems that Nizar wrote. Wissal couldn’t marry the man she loved, so she decided that life had no point for her. He often thought about the last moments before she died and he thought it was really inspiring how big the power of love could be. He was fifteen years old when his sister died.
One year later, Nizar wrote his first poem and five years later, in 1944, he wrote his first collection of poems. His poems handled sensitive themes, like the female beauty which he described in a very sexual way. Hereby, there was a lot of controversy about his poems. He also handled political themes.
In the spring of 1966, he decided to devote himself completely to poetry. He was also very politically active and worked as a diplomat. His last post was in Beirut, where he stayed and started the publishing company “Manshurat Nizar Qabbani”.
Qabbani faced several losses in his life. He lost his 25-year-old son to a heart ailment and his second wife died in a bombing attack in 1981 during the Lebanese Civil War. About this loss, he wrote a powerful poem ‘Balqis’.
For killing my Balqis.
Go, have a drink,
On the martyr’s grave’s brink.
My poem is assassinated.
For no nation but ours
Has such powers!
He blamed the political parties for not facing the serious problems that the Arabic world was dealing with. Instead of occupying themselves with those problems, they only seemed to be occupied with contesting against each other. Although he said in this poem that he would never write again, the writer didn’t keep his word.
After his wife died, he left Beirut and lived in France and Switzerland for a while. Eventually he ended up in the United Kingdom. He died at the age of 75 on April 30th 1998.