Egyptian tycoon Sawiris creates award to honour poet Negm

Ahram Online, Sunday 1 Jun 2014

Annual LE100,000 prize celebrates late Egyptian colloquial poet Ahmed Fouad Negm, one of Egypt's most revered writers from the 20th century

Ahmed Foaud Negm
Ahmed Foaud Negm, poet of the people

Egyptian billionaire Naguib Sawiris has launched a new poetry prize to honour the late Egyptian leftist poet Ahmed Fouad Negm, one of Egypt’s most prestigious colloquial poets in the 20th century.

The annual prize, named after Negm, will be given out starting in December, which coincides with the first anniversary of the poet's death.

The winner of the prize will receive LE50,000, with five short-listed candidates given LE10,000 each.

The prize’s board of trustees includes the famous writer and journalist Salah Eissa, former culture minister Emad Abu-Ghazi, producer Mohammed El-Adl, director Magdi Ahmed Ali and poet Ibrahim Dawood.

Born in the Nile Delta governorate of Sharqiya on 29 May 1929, Negm became one of Egypt’s most renowned vernacular poets of the second half of the 20th century. His voice was one of protest after 1967, when he wrote his famous poems on the Six Day War.

His poems were frequently heard at protests, like during the January 2011 uprising where his poem the Brave Man is Brave was sung by revolutionaries.

His name is closely linked with the singer and composer Sheikh Imam, who sang many of his protest poems.

Negm discovered poetry in the 1950's when he was jailed for counterfeiting. While in prison he won a poetry competition organised by the Egyptian arts council, and his collection Pictures of Life in Prison was published.

He was known for his vehement criticism of Egyptian presidents, for which he spent 18 years in prison, including 11 for mocking the television addresses of president Anwar Sadat.

Negm subtly merged cynicism with a sense of the oppression suffered by the working class.


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