Skip to main content

Known for Being

An Iraqi poet and critic, one of the most important Arab women writers.

One of the first female poets who underlines the importance of the free verse movement, in the Arab world, in the late 1940s.

Major Accomplishments

Nazik al-Mala'ika was an Iraqi poet and critic, as well as a major advocate of the free verse movement in the late 1940s. Nazik al-Mala'ika started to write in her childhood, and at the age of ten she composed her first poem in classical Arabic. In 1968, she collected and edited her mother's poetry and published an anthology titled Unshudad al-Majd.

Al-Mala'ika was educated in Baghdad, where she published poems in newspapers and magazines during her college years. As a writer, al-Mala'ika made her debut in 1947 with A'shiqat Al-Layl. Her themes of despair and disillusion were derived from the Arabic literary romanticism of the 1930s and 1940s, but she also drew inspiration from the English Romantic poets, exemplified in her version of Keats's Ode to a Nightingale. Shazaya wa Ramad (1949), Al-Mala'ika's second collection, helped re-launch free verse as a new form for avant-garde poetry. For fifteen centuries, the classical rhyming form of Arabic poetry had flourished unchallenged. Al-Mala'ika's explained the advantages of free verse in her new poetry book. The critic 'Abd al-Jabbar Dawud al-Basri called the introduction of her book "the first manifesto" issued by the free-verse movement.

Qararat al-Mawya (1957), al-Mala'ika's third collection, collected poems written between 1937 and 1953. In the 1950s al-Mala'ika secured her place as one of the most prominent figures of Iraqi modernism in literature. In 1954, she continued her studies at the University of Wisconsin, where she obtained an M.A. in comparative literature. Upon her return to Baghdad, Al-Mala'ika worked as a university lecturer and professor. She backed the free-verse movement with her critical writings, when arguments were thrown for and against metrical poetry. Al-Mala'ika's collected articles, Qadaya 'l-shi'r al-Mu'asir (1962), continued the debate and developed further some of the principles formulated in the introduction of Shazaya wa Ramad. Yughayyir Alwanahu al-Bahr (1977) and Lil-Salah Wa-al-Thawra (1978) were written entirely in free verse.

Last modified: 01/02/2019

Share this: