Omar Abu Risha and the Last Love

Syrian poet and diplomat, Abu Risha was born in Manbej(1910-1990), near Aleppo in northern Syria. He studied at  Damascus University then moved to the American University of Beirut before joining the University of Manchester. He was well read in English, American and French poetry, which left a strong influence on his work.

Abu Risha’s father tried to dissuade him from pursuing poetry, and sent him to study chemistry in England. There, Abu Risha fell deeply in love, but the young woman he wanted to marry died of typhoid. He described his pain in a poem called “the last love”, which ushered in a new era of Arabic romantic poetry

He won fame in the Arab world in the 1930s for his modern approach to poetry in which he broke with the traditions of Arab classicism, and for his nationalism in the face of French colonial rule. He went back to Aleppo in 1932 and joined the resistance against the French occupation of Syria. But after the French forces departed, Abu Risha found himself in total discord with many of the political conditions of his country. He had strong belief in the importance of Arab unity. In 1940, Abu Risha was appointed director of the National Library in Aleppo. His first book, Poetry of Umar Abu Risha, was published in 1947 at the top of his fame, and is his most popular work

In 1949, he was appointed for one year ambassador to Brazil, then to Argentina for three years, then India (1954-1959), Vienna, Washington and again India in 1965. In 1970 he resigned from diplomatic service and moved to Beirut. He died in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia and was buried in Manbej, Syria.

Abu Risha’s first and only collection of poems was printed 1971. It contains most of his poetry

He was the epitome of Arab poetry at its best and most elevated form. His diplomatic career could not cripple his aspirations and love for his Arab nation. He had belief that the Arab nation was a great one whose old glories needed to be revived. Abu Risha kept glorifying the Arabs and encouraging them into action until his death on 14 June 1990

To his readers and hundreds of thousands of admirers, he was one of few poets who could use the Arabic language very accurately and with exquisite mastery. His poetry is no place for redundancy or misuse of words. He used to speak from the very depths of history, connecting the past with the present

One time he was asked about whether he had any Bedouin origins in his blood,His answer was, “I’m a Bedouin and I’ll always be proud of that".

 Nada haj Khidr

 

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