First Published: 2014-02-18

Arab poetry suffers great loss with passing of Lebanese poet Ounsi al-Hajj
Ounsi al-Hajj, who pioneered use of free verse in Arabic poetry in 20th century, dies aged 77.
Middle East Online

Poet, journalist and translator

BEIRUT - Lebanese poet Ounsi al-Hajj, who pioneered the use of free verse in Arabic poetry in the 20th century, died Tuesday aged 77, his family said.

"His health had deteriorated in recent days. He was suffering from colon cancer and died on Tuesday afternoon, surrounded by his family at his home," a relative said.

Akl al-Awit, editor of Lebanese daily An-Nahar's cultural supplement, called the death a "great loss for Arab poetry."

Hajj was born in Beirut on June 27 1937. His father was journalist and translator Louis al-Hajj and his mother was Mary Aqal. He married Leila Daou in 1957 and they had two children named Nada and Louis.

Hajj was a founding member, along with poets Yousef al-Khal and Adonis, of the literary magazine "Shaar" (Poetry).

His first book, published in the magazine in 1960, was the first of free verse poetry in Arabic.

Hajj also worked as a journalist at the pan-Arab Al-Hayat daily, at An-Nahar and another Lebanese newspaper, Al-Ahkbar.

He authored six books of poetry that were translated into multiple languages, and himself translated into Arabic works by Shakespeare, Albert Camus and Bertolt Brecht.

The six collections of are as follows: Lan, The chopped head, The past of forthcoming days, What have you made with the gold what have you done with the rose, The Messenger with her hair long until the sources and The banquet. He also has a three-part book of articles called Words words words, and a book of philosophical contemplations and aphorisms called Khawatem that was released in two parts in 1991 and 1997. Al-Hajj began publishing a third part on a weekly basis in 2007 in the newspaper Al-Akhbar.

From 1963, al-Hajj translated into Arabic more than ten plays by Shakespeare, Ionesco, Durrenmatt, Camus, Brecht and others. His translations were performed by groups from the school of modern acting (at the Baalbek festivals) as well as the actors Nidal al-Achkar, Roger Assaf, Shakib Khoury and Burj Fazlian.

Selections of his poetry have been translated into French, English, German, Portuguese, Armenian and Finnish. The anthology Flying Eternity was published in French in Paris by the publishing house Actes Sud in 1997 and the anthology Love and the Fox, Love and the Others was published in a German/Arabic bilingual edition in Berlin in 1998.

 

Erdogan urges world to recognise Jerusalem as Palestinian capital

Gulf pours funds into West Africa anti-jihadist force

US skeptical about Putin's declaration of military victory in Syria

US-led air strikes kill 23 civilians in Syria

Saudi Arabia lifts decades-long ban on cinemas

US to present 'irrefutable evidence' of Iran violations

Istanbul 'to remove Gulen links' from street names

Iraq hangs 38 jihadists

Pence to visit Middle East despite controversy

Hamas chief calls for continued Jerusalem protests

EU to repatriate 15,000 migrants from Libya in two months

Syria Kurds fear US ally will desert them after IS defeat

Israeli drugmaker Teva to cut 14,000 jobs over two years

Turkey rescues 51 migrants stranded on rocks

Saudi, UAE hold talks with Yemen Islamists

18 killed after bomber strikes Mogadishu police academy

Israeli air strikes target Hamas military facilities

Israel union calls nationwide strike over pharmaceutical giant job cuts

UN envoy urges Putin to press Assad for elections

Yemen's Huthi rebels release pro-Saleh media staff

Israel intelligence minister invites Saudi prince to visit

Saudi-led strikes kill 30 in rebel-run Yemen prison

Saudi king says Palestinians have 'right' to Jerusalem

Saudi King says determined to confront corruption

South Sudan needs $1.7 billion humanitarian aid in 2018

UAE oil giant floats 10 percent of retail arm to strong interest

Growing concern about rise of far-right in Austria

Saudi, UAE seeks to help West Africa fight terrorism

Somali journalist dies after Mogadishu bombing

Israeli sentenced to four years for arson attack on church

Erdogan risks sabotaging fragile relations with Israel

6.2-magnitude earthquake strikes Iran

Two Gazans killed by Israeli ‘strike’, Israel denies claim

French FM accuses Iran of carving out ‘axis’ of influence

Over 170 dead after South Sudan rival cattle herders clash

Russia begins partial withdrawal from Syria

Russia weary of returning IS jihadists before World Cup, election

EU accused of complicity in Libya migrant rights violations

Pentagon skeptical about Russia's Syria pullout claims

EU says Syria war ‘ongoing’ despite Russia pullout

Istanbul nightclub gunman refuses to testify

Integrating Syrians in Turkey carries implications

US opinion views Muslims and Arabs more favourably but political affiliation makes a difference

Iranian conservative protesters say Trump hastening end of Israel

Senior Saudi prince blasts Trump's "opportunistic" Jerusalem move