Nazik Al-Malaikah… The Iraqi Flute
AUTHOR: Abbas Baydoun
Translated by Adib S. Kawar
Nazik Al-Malaikah, the great pioneering Iraqi Arab poet, is the victim of American colonialism. She had to desert her occupied and shattered land and terrorized people in Mesopotamia, which contributed to universal culture and heritage more than other lands. The so-called "freedom"and "democracy" destroyed this great land’s culture, people and unity.
Nazik Al-Malaikah had to desert her beloved land to escape with her life like millions others of her compatriots. She passed away in Egypt yearning to see her birthplace, the great, fallen Baghdad.
The passing away of Nazik Al-Malaikah followed an absence that started a long time ago; seclusion, illness and old age kept her away from poetry and life itself. It was painful that there was nothing left of her except the news of her passing away, that no one asked about her except for the fact that she was no more. Even the Arab poetry conference was held and ended in Cairo without even mentioning her name. It could be our chronic undutifulness, it could be the undutifulness of life and time, and the news of her death was but a final point for this absence that lasted such a long time.
We should be called to rescue her out of forced oblivion. We shall not say that she had finished something that was gone long ago, nor that an era that was lost with her absence from the world of poetry. It is clear that this brilliant and exceptional woman is not in her presence in a history that has no clear place. It is sorrowful that nothing remained of Nazik Al-Malaikah except contention about pioneership that was confirmed, nothing more than conflict about trial and modernity, which became part of the archives, and besides late objection on innovation that she thought had gotten out of control and jumped over the fence.
It is regretful that there is nothing left of Nazik Al-Malaikah except signs of unrecorded history; we don’t find anything other than that which is buried and secluded, nothing more than certificates of people’s readings and reviews. The anachronism of modernity is that it is no more in the opinion of its founders and those who called for it, thus it remained without a library, without a memory and no heritage, and what is now affecting Nazik Al-Malaikah today is a curse that targeted all: As-Sayyab, Hawi, Abed Al-Sabour and Kabbani, who obtanined no more than eulogies. The passage of time did not permit their rereading or interpretation.
Let us return with Nazik Al-Malaikah to Iraq of the fifties, a birthplace of outstanding works in history in the arts of music, poetry and the fine art of painting and sculpture. It is possible that much pioneering was done there although it is universally agreed that all of that did not come out extemporarily; on the contrary it was built on bases that are almost a reality. And it is connected and analogous to things that form, between their boundaries, a world. The musical, painting and sculptural works could be driven by a common enthusiasm, which is a sort of reproducing actuality, from composing a second story for Iraqi life, and a second vision to redraw the past in the present and history in the popular scene. The history of Jawad Ali, the ornamentations of Jawad Salim, the music of the two Bashir brothers and the poetry of As-Sayyab and Al-Malaikah are nothing but analogous and similar for this enthusiasm.
It is not strange that Iraqi enthusiasm sprang from the womb of a suffering that gave birth to many poetesses and which brought to the arena Nazik Al-Malaikah, Lami’a Amarah and Atika Al-Khuzarji, who are without exaggeration actual poetic greats. It was not strange that a poetess as Al-Malaikah could compete with a poet in pioneering, thus in this case she is the initiator and the succeeded. Pioneering is not important in the first placif it doesn’t come as a mutation that is superseded by a respected and rich culture, and a special and unique poetic characteristic, which qualified the poetess to make this leap. We don’t find a borderline between her column poetry (traditional Arabic poetry in which every line of it is divided into a first hemistich “Alsader” and the second hemistich “Alajez”) and its rhyming, because the matter here in this classification. The column poetry of Nazik bears all the renovation in its momentum that is found in her scanned verse.
She is here and there putting a break to the fervor of Arab poetry, and its belligerent warlike richness, as well as its oratory and approach to the masses, its confusion with other purposes such as teaching, its instigation, historical recording and its merger with the occasion. The poetess, who wrote in her column poetry the moon is “a soft and rich glass of milk”, did not need to say much more in her prosody verse. This doesn’t mean that the moon is a glass of milk; it opened in our imagination. This doesn’t mean that Al-Malaikah did not achieve anything in her prosody poetry (with foot of verse measure), but we don’t build a wall between a poet’s early, middle and late poetry, as it doesn’t mean that it cannot give prosody a special essentialism.
There is something in her prosody poetry that is not distinct in her poem “THE CHOLERA” as much as it is distinct in her poem "THE PRAYER OF THE GHOSTS"; for example the ability of the poetess to limit her poem to a linguistic, sensational and spectacular pit without an inclination to ramification and dispersion that usually exhaust the modern poem. In her prosody there is an inclination for a clear singing, seriated, frank, argumentative, mature, sensational, courageous, identical, and an almost analogous demeanor, sentimental intensity that is not trapped by superficial emotions and “chewed” words. Whatever is the situation, in spite of the paradox, we are facing a poetess. It would be unfair to Al-Malaikah to limit her to one historical milestone, as in spite of that, she succumbed to such an attribution, but she was exactly less suitable for this contention. She is further ahead as a poetess and there is in her poetry a real exposure for a mature pure essence, for a rich and able woman. Thus with this poetess and with this essence and the person hereself, Nazik Al-Malaikah should be an outstanding figure in history.
But the years of solitude, absence and possibly unconsciousness are not enough to hide a woman with this brightness, intelligence, and confrontationist character, protestation and pioneering (meaning to be the followed and not a follower). Probably the final death of Nazik Al-Malaikah makes us understand that what she achieved was an exceptional special personality as a woman.