Classical Poems by Arab Women

Classical Poems by Arab Women

A Bilingual Anthology

Edited by


9780863560477 January 2017 Paperback 240pp 6 b + w illustrations

About the Book

‘This is some of the most beautiful poetry in the world … Timeless.’ Tracy Emin


Arab women poets have been around since the earliest of times, yet their diwans (collected poems) were not given the same consideration as their male counterparts’.

Spanning 7,000 years, from the pre-Islamic to the Andalusian periods, Classical Poems by Arab Women presents rarely seen work by over fifty women writers for the first time. From the sorrowful eulogies of Khansa to the gleeful scorn of Wallada bint al-Mustakfi, this collection exclusively features the work of Arab women who boldly refused to be silenced. The poems are excursions into their vibrant world whose humanity has been suppressed for centuries by religious and political bigotry.

With poems in both English and Arabic, this remarkable anthology celebrates feminine wit and desire, and shows the significant contribution Arab women made to the literary tradition.

About the Contributors

Abdullah al-Udhari was born in Taiz, Yemen, in 1941, and has lived in London since 1962. He studied classical Arab literature and Sabaean epigraphy at London University, where he also received a doctorate for his pioneering study, Jahili Poetry before Imru al-Qais [4000 BCE–500 CE], which established him as an authority on early Jahili literature. In 1974 he founded and edited TR, an Anglo-Arab literary and arts magazine. He is a literary historian, poet and storyteller, editor of Classical Poems by Arab Women (Saqi Books), and author of Voice Without Passport, The Arab Creation Myth, Victims of a Map, and Modern Poetry of the Arab World.


‘The collection’s range of female poets from radically different eras is extraordinary, as is how fearlessly they speak about their desires’
Mona Eltahawy

'The very process of anthologizing the names of so many unfamiliar poets has provided a useful historical survey.'
Roger Allen, MESA Bulletin

'An outspoken and controversial book that provides many moments for both enjoyment and reflection.'
Denys Johnston-Davies, Al-Ahram

'Al-Udhari's effort to clarify this subject really does fill a gap and contributes to a more balanced discussion that the works about women in the modern Arab world allow.'
Ohio State University, Folklore Bulletin

‘A unique anthology that transcends love and liberation’
Moris Farhi