Al-Mala'ka's first book, A'shiqat Al-Layl, appeared in 1947, expressing themes of despair and disillusion traditionally in Arabic literary romanticism of the 1930s and 1940. Her second collection, however, Shazaya wa ramad (Ashes and Shrapnel) was written in free verse, and helped to bring about a new avant-garde in Arab poetry. Throughout the 1950s, al-Mala'ka was among the most prominent figures of modernism, writing numerous articles on metrics and taking strong positions as a defender of women's rights, as well as lecturing on women's position in a patriarchal society. Her collected essays, Qadaya 'l-shi'r al-mu'asir was published in 1962.
Revolt Against the Sun: The Selected Poetry of Nazik al-Mala'ka, A Bilingual Reader (trans. by Emily Drumsta)(London: Saqi Books, 2020)
For a reading in Arabic by the poet, click here:
Witnessing how happiness can leave us
You did not come, lost instead with other dreams
You left your chair
Engaging our dull circle
In clamorous questions about
I didn't know your disappearing all these years
And all dreams in every corner, every curve
I didn't know how you could overpower these people here
A hundred guest lost
In a moment of desire
As it ebbs and flows in yearning for
If you came, if we sat with all the others
Would you just become another guest with evening at an end
Both of us, our eyes turning, still in search?
We'd ask the empty seats about
Those we missed at meetings past
Crying out that among them was
And if you came one day (it's better that you don't)
The wings of wonder would be clipped and my songs sad
My hands would hold the fragments of my innocent hope.
I love you as a dream
If you come as flesh and bone
I still would dream of the impossible
Made of nectar and twilight roses,
Of tenderness and gold.
In it, they said, was
The panacea for the wounds of man.
We wanted it, but didn't get it.
Back to our hopes, miserable and unfulfilled.
Where is this land?
Are we to see it or
is it to stay enveloped, unattainable
Agitating inside us only
A numbed yearning?
Within closed lips?
The millions are
A torrent of desire,
And a dream of flame.
Open the gates for thousands
Of exhausted victims are screaming.