Thursday, April 11, 2013

Day J: Jawahiri- a jewel from Iraq

This April, I will be participating in the A to Z Blogging Challenge, writing about the A to Z of Iraqi Culture. Do give in your own two cents in the comments below and let me know if you have anything to add or something similar to share from your own culture.


In Iraq, poetry is significant. In the words of the poet Al-Ramli:
"In my country, poetry isn’t considered a luxurious complement but a need. It is not just a mean of expression but a vivid experience and an expression for life itself.”
It is very common for Iraqi gatherings at home to have poetry sessions- with everyone, including children, participating with recitations of memorized couplets.

So it isn't surprising that Iraq has given birth to very important poets in Arabic literature- the most famous being the world renowned: al-Mutannabi.

Another poet worthy of mentioning is the late yet more recent Al-Jawahiri, who was born to a scholarly family in the city of Najaf and began displaying his inclination to poetry as early as ten years old. He grew to be the most important Iraqi poet of his time, chairing unions of writers and poets, with his poems being taught as part of the curriculum.

Jawahiri's poems were classical Arabic, and charged with much emotion and anger at social injustice and corruption. Few of them have been translated- a task which is very difficult given the poetic nature of the Arabic language.

Here's a poem translated, entitled "Lullaby for the Hungry":

"Sleep, You hungry people, sleep!

The gods of food watch over you.

Sleep, if you are not satiated

By wakefulness, then sleep shall fill you.

Sleep, with thoughts of smooth-as butter-promises,

Mingled with words as sweet as honey.

Sleep, and enjoy the best of health.

What a fine thing is sleep for the wretched!

Sleep till the resurrection morning

Then it will be time enough to rise.

Sleep in the swamps

Surging with silty waters.

Sleep to the tune of mosquitoes humming

As if it were the crooning of doves.

Sleep to the echo of long speechifyings

By great and eminent power politicians.

Sleep, You hungry people sleep!

For sleep is one of the blessings of peace.

It is stupid for you to rise,

Sowing discord where harmony reigns.

Sleep, for the reform of corruption

Simply consists in your sleeping on.

Sleep, You hungry people, sleep!

Don’t cut off others’ livelihood.

Sleep, your skin cannot endure

The shower of sharp arrows when you wake.

Sleep, for the yards of jail houses

Are all teeming with violent death,

And you are the more in need of rest

After the harshness of oppression.

Sleep, and the leaders will find ease

From a sickness that has no cure.

Sleep, You hungry people, sleep!

For sleep is more likely to protect your rights

And it is sleep that is most conducive

To stability and discipline.

Sleep, I send my greetings to you;

I send you peace, as you sleep on.

Sleep, You hungry people, sleep!

The gods of food watch over you.

Sleep, You hungry people, sleep!

The gods of food watch over you."



  1. I have a dear friend - who IS this kind of poet/person - he is a Mystic and manages to covey deep thoughts simply.

    This poem is amazing, pulling another understand completely from the thought of Sleep.

    Thank you very much (again & again.)
    Happy A to Z!

  2. Very thought provoking! Thanks for stopping by!

  3. It is National Poetry month in the States. This poem translated beautifully.

  4. I wish we had had poetry evenings when I grew up; I'm genuinely not capable of the form, though I'd love to learn. This is a beautiful poem - thanks for sharing (good translation too).

  5. What an astounding poem. The poet captured the silent cries of those who hunger. Excellent.

  6. You are a woman after my own heart, but I might be repeating myself. :-)

  7. Replies
    1. I write some occasionally (some are on this blog) but they are just casual rhymes!

  8. Hi Ghadeer .. I'm loving your posts .. and this poem has so much feeling ... and it's good to read about your poets and your homeland ..

    Thank you for posting about Iraq .. Hilary


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