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Biography: Badr Shakir al-Sayyab

Iraqi poet. (1926-1964) One of the greatest poets in Arabic literature, whose experiments helped to change the course of modern Arabic poetry. At the end of the forties he launched, with Nazlk al-Mala'ika, the free verse movement and gave it credibility with the many fine poems he published in the fifties. 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 publication of his third volume, Song of Rain, in ig6o 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 Aragon, Nazim Hikmat, and Edith Sitwell, who, with T. S. Eliot, had a profound influence on him.


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