Academic journal article Arab Studies Quarterly

The Poetic Voices of Ahmad Abd Al-Mu'ti Hijazi: 1950-2011

Academic journal article Arab Studies Quarterly

The Poetic Voices of Ahmad Abd Al-Mu'ti Hijazi: 1950-2011

Article excerpt


This article examines the poetic voices of Egyptian poet Ahmad Abd al-Mu'ti Hijazi in five representative poems written between 1950 and 2011. It investigates the role of major political events in the Arab world on his trajectory and poetic voice. The article argues that Hijazi changes his poetic voice in relation to the status quo in Egypt. The article concludes that these voices conflict and clash with one another. Hijazi publishes a collection of poetry after the eruption of the Egyptian Revolution in January 2011, to inspire his people, protest against Mubarak's regime, and regain his poetic voice.

Keywords: Egypt, Nasserism, 1967 War, Arab Uprising, Arab nationalism, iltizam, poetic voices

Refraining from publishing poetry collections for 22 years, Ahmad Abd al-Mu'ti Hijazi emerges with a new revolutionary poetic voice after the eruption of the Arab Uprising in 2011. By examining the impact of major political Arab movements and events such as Nasserism, the 1967 defeat and the Arab Uprising, I investigate the interplay between politics and poetry in the works of Egyptian poet Hijazi. I argue that Hijazi's poetic voices oppose one another in different stages in his life starting from his earliest works in the 1950s to his latest work in 2011. Hijazi's four conflicting voices are: the voice of the regime in the Nasserist era (1950s and 1960s), the voice of the public in the Sadat era (1970s), the indignant and spiteful voice in the Mubarak era (1980s), and the new resurrected voice during the Arab Uprising (2011). Specifically, the article examines Hijazi's poetic voices in five of his poems: "Abd al-Nasir" (Nasser, 1959), "Marthiyat al-Umr al-Jamil" (Elegy of the Beautiful Life, 1972), "Ka'inat Mamlakat al-Layl" (Creatures of the Night Kingdom, 1978), "Ashjar al-Ismint," (Cement Trees, 1989) and "Iradat al-Hayat: ilaAbu al-Qasim al-Shabbi" (Will of Life: to Abu al-Qasim al-Shabbi, 2011).

Ahmad Abd al-Mu'ti Hijazi was bom in the village of Tala in al-Manufiya, Egypt in 1935. His family was one of the middle class families in the Egyptian countryside, where he was educated and brought up. When he was 18 years old, he wrote his first poem: "Buka'al-Abad" (Weeping of Eternity, 1953), which was published in al-Risala al-Jadida (The New Message) in 1955.' He graduated with a diploma from the Teachers College in Cairo in 1955 and moved in the same year to France, to return after one year to Egypt to edit Sabah el-Khayr magazine in 1956. In 1965, he became the editorial director of the cultural and literary journal Ruz al-Yusuf in Cairo. His first collection, Madina bila Qalb (A City Without a Heart, 1959) was published in Beirut and his second collection Awras (Aures, 1959) was published in Damascus. The title of Aw ras is derived from Aures, a chain of mountains in Algeria, which becomes Hijazi's muse and poetic inspiration. The choice of title of this collection is not arbitrary. The Algerian revolution for independence from the French in 1954 began in the Aures mountains. This collection highlights the urgency of a revolution, led by Nasser, in the Arab world. These two collections reflect Hijazi's experience in Cairo, the heartless city, and his support of Nasser.

In 1965, two years before the 1967 Arab-Israeli War, his third collection Lam Yabqa illa al-I'tiraf (Nothing Remains but Confession) was published in Beirut. In 1972, Hijazi published his fourth collection: Marthiyai al-Umr al-Jamil (Elegy of the Beautiful Life) in Beirut. In late September 1973, two weeks before the Arab-Israeli October War, under the government of Anwar al-Sadat, Hijazi, among other intellectuals who opposed the regime, was fired from his job, and he left Cairo for Paris in 1974.2 During his stay in France, 1974-90, he taught Arabic literature at the University of Vincennes in Saint-Denis. In addition, he obtained a degree in Anthropology from the Université de la Sorbonne Nouvelle in 1978. While in France, he also published his fifth and sixth collections: Ka 'inat Mamlakat al-Layl (Creatures of the Night Kingdom, 1978) in Beirut and Ashjar al-Ismint (Cement Trees, 1989) in Cairo. …

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