In 2005, the Syrian Post issued a set of three stamps about contemporary Syrian writers. This stamp represents the Syrian poet Nizar Qabbani (1923-1998), one of the most famous Arab poets of the twentieth century.
Childhood and early life
Nizar Tawfiq Qabbani was born in 1923 in the Minaret Al-Shahem neighborhood, one of the old neighborhoods of Damascus, to an Arab Damascene family with a long tradition in the world of culture. His grandfather Abu Khalil al-Qabbani (1833-1903) is considered one of the prominent figures in Syria, a pioneer of Arab theater, a pioneer of Arab musical theater, and the first to establish an Arab theater in the nineteenth century in Damascus.
Nizar Qabbani’s upbringing in a family leading in culture and literature influenced the emergence of his early artistic inclinations. Firstly, in his childhood,he loved drawing and colours, then he turned to Arabic calligraphy and studied at the hands of a manual calligrapher. Subsequently, his passion moved to music, and he learned at the hands of a private teacher to play and compose on the Oud instrument. Finally he anchored to poetry, and began to memorize the poems of Omar bin Abi Rabia, Jamil Buthaina, Tarfa bin Al-Abd, and Qais bin Al-Malouh. Furthermore, Nizar Qabbani was a student of the poet Khalil Mardam Bey, who taught him the basics of Arabic grammar and morphology, and from here began his relationship with poetry before he joined the university.
Education and Diplomatic Career
At first, the Syrian poet Nizar Qabbani studied in Damascus schools and obtained his baccalaureate from the National Scientific College School. Then he joined the Faculty of Law at the Syrian University and graduated in 1945. In fact, he began writing poetry at the age of 16, when he wrote a poem about longing for home during a school trip to Italy.
following his graduation, he worked in the diplomatic corps at the Syrian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, and was appointed to the Syrian embassies abroad. In his diplomatic work, he moved between many capitals, including Cairo, London, Beijing, Ankara and Madrid, until he settled in Beirut. Later, Nizar Qabbani resigned from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in 1966 and devoted himself to poetry in Beirut, where he established a private publishing house under the name “Nizar Qabbani Publications”.
Nizar Qabbani was a great poet, distinguished in the first stage of his life by romantic and love poetry. He wrote on women’s condition, sexuality – a taboo issue in the
Arab world of the time, and war.
His first collection of poems, “The Brown Said to Me,” published in 1944 during his university studies, sparked controversy in educational circles at the university. Later, during his diplomatic career in the mid-fifties, his poem “Bread, hashish and moon” provoked a severe storm that reached Parliament, where there were demands for his expulsion from the Foreign Ministry and his dismissal from diplomatic work.
From love to Pilitics
The 1967 defeat brought Nizar Qabbani’s poetry from the topics of love to topics of politics and resistance. The poem “Margins on the Setback Book” was a harsh criticism of the shortcomings of the Arab regimes, which caused anger and led to his being prevented from entering several Arab countries.
Then, in 1974, Nizar wrote his famous poem “Inlaying with gold on a Damascene sword”, in which he declares his love of Damascus, and expresses pride about the victory of October 1973. Undeniably, Damascus and Beirut had a special space in his poems, perhaps the most prominent of them are “The Damascene poem” and “You mistress of the World, O Beirut,”.
Nizar Qabbani published a large number of poetry collections, amounting to 35 collections, which he wrote over more than half a century, the most important of which are “Childhood of a breast, Drawing with Words, Poems, Samba, You are mine.” He has a large number of prose books, the most important of which are: “My Story with Poetry, What is Poetry, 100 Love Letters”. His last collection was “I am one man and you are a tribe of women” in 1993. In addition to romance and love, Nizar Qabbani wrote many poems of a social, political and sentimental nature. Not to mention that tens of the most famous Arab singers sang Nizar Qabbani’s poems during his life and after his death.
Finally, Nizar Qabbani settled in London where he lived the last years of his life and died on the 30th of April 1998.