Al-Baradouni: A genius immortalized by his legacy [Archives:2005/873/Culture]

September 1 2005

On Monday, August 29, a ceremony was held to mark the anniversary of the death of a great Yemeni poet, Abdullah al-Baradouni. The occasion, which was celebrated at the Culture House, was attended by the Minister of Culture and Tourism Khaled al-Rowaishan, who delivered a speech describing the tremendous literary contribution of the late poet to the Arab library. Organized by the Yemeni Writers' Union, Baradouni Friends Association and the Ministry of Culture and Tourism, the festival included a number of artistic sections and recitations of Baradouni's verses.

It is time to remember Baradouni:

On the sixth commemoration of the most famous national poet, Abdullah Al-Baradouni, we feel the urge to further explore the world of this giant figure of Yemeni and Arabic literature. Al-Baradouni is a real genius who lived a simple life and, living thus, we did not give him his due. This man of letter neither tasted affection, saw beauty nor got children. He experienced the alienation of the soul and the alienation of happiness, suffering many manacles starting with poverty and ending with blindness.

Al-Baradouni's is famous as a poet. However, he is not just that. He excelled in many fields and authored many books. Al-Baradouni was a great prose writer whose production is characterized by smoothness and simplicity. In his last days, he was writing his diaries which were being published in episodes on September Weekly. He wrote one single novel (Uncle Maymoun), which is still on scripts.

Al-Baradouni was also a struggler who fought with his words against the tyranny of the ousted imamate and later, with his politically charged writing, criticized malpractices and represented the voice of the bulk of people.

His blindness, which he did not admit nor succumb to at any moment of his life, did not restrict his poetic talent. Similar to ancient Arab poet Bashar bin Burd, al-Baradouni excelled in his poetry and amazed the audience with the forcefulness of his verse which included profound insights and set forth philosophically provocative questions. Not only that, al-Baradouni was an entire school and a versatile scholar who revolutionized his age and rebelled conventionalism both in thought and in poetics.


Al-Baradouni is known to be the last of the great Arab classicist. He preserved the shape of Arabic qasida and did not write free verse. He did not disregard any form of poetry provided that it is creative. However, his classicism was distinctive. As Dr. Abdulaziz al-Maqaleh described his poetry, it is a modern perfume in an antique bottle. The modern characteristics of his poetry are manifested in its exposition of contemporary themes and concepts and the innovative manipulation of meter and vocabulary.

Outspoken critic, woman rights advocate:

Al-Baradouni is a veteran poet who lived in pre and post revolution Yemen. Notwithstanding his blindness, Abdullah al-Baradouni stood firmly against the unfairness of the imamate regime and criticized the Imam himself. He was to be thrown into prison. While many people held the monarch in respect, he publicly expressed his disillusion and resentment. He was an advocate of democracy and human rights as well.

At the beginning of his life, he used to earn his living by acting on behalf of divorced and abused women before courts. In an interview with Al-Arabi Magazine, conducted by Ali al-Muqri, al-Baradouni mentioned that when the patriarch of a rich family died, females were grudged by their brothers who refused to give them their shares in heritance because that would mean letting out the family's money into the hands of strangers (the husbands of women). Al-Baradouni would take up such cases and act as an attorney.

A first-class poet:

Al-Baradouni received many honors on different occasions. He received the Award of Abu Tammam Festival in Iraq; Fourth Jarash Festival's Award , al-Uwais Award; and Literature and Arts Award in Sana'a. He used the money awards in bringing out his usually bulky publications at affordable prices.

Not until the early 70s of the last century, al-Baradouni was unknown by the Arab literary community. In his debut appearance at al-Marbad Festival (Abu Tammam Festival) in 1971, he was clad in Yemeni traditional clothes that would disenchant that sort of gathering. However, his opening the festival with the jaw-dropping poem of “Abu Tammam and the Arabism of Today” captivated the audience. It marked their discovery of a brilliant poet from South Arabia. From then on, Al-Baradouni drew much attention and many literary criticism focused on his works.

Al-Baradouni and irony:

Al-Baradouni was famous for his caustic irony. Reading his poetry, one can feel his irony-shrouded grief over the grievances of the “Age Sans Identity.” Dr. Waleed Mushawah states that irony is the “four cardinal directions of al-Baradouni's poetic geography. His irony is perceptible even in his description, his amore, his satire, and his praise.” He concludes that al-Baradouni is “a high laughter” and “a painful melancholy. He is a weeping that resembles laughter or a laughter steeped in weeping.” From his “End of Death” comes the following stanza:

I find no kinship with anything;

The world is alien, the times estranged-

As if I came in an age to soon or too late.

Or perhaps in an interim

Al-Baradouni utilized his poetry as a stick with which he groped in the darkness of life. One of his most quoted lines is “All this is my country, and in it there is everything except myself and my country.”

He really proved himself to be “the man who can see in the blind time,” as he astutely read the past, present and future.”

The poet's profile:

Abdullah Saleh Hassan al-Baradouni was born in 1929 in the village of Baradoun in Dhamar Province. He went blind when he was six after contracting small pox. His parents were farmers and he had a hard childhood. Al-Baradouni studied in Dhamar schools for ten years and then moved to Sana'a and completed his studies at the Sciences House. He was appointed as a teacher at the same school and held positions in the Sana'a Radio after the Revolution.

Al-Baradouni authored ten poetry collections (including “From the Land of Bilqis” (1961), “On the Road of Dawn” (1967), “The City of Tomorrow” (1970), “Smoky Faces in Night's Mirrors” (1977)) and six studies (including “A Journey Through Yemeni Poetry, Old and New” (1972), “Yemeni Issues” (1977), “Arts of Yemeni Popular Literature” (1982)) Some of his works have been translated into English and French. He died on August 30, 1999 at the age of 70.