Poetry night commemorates Egypt's 'father of poetry' Fouad Haddad

Mary Mourad and Mohammed Saad, Sunday 24 Nov 2013

Event commemorating 26 years since death of Fouad Haddad saw unprecedented gathering of cultural, political figures at Egypt's LMDC

Fouad Haddad
Poet Ragab El-Sawy on the stage reciting his poem in praise of Haddad

The Leadership and Management Development Center (LMDC) was packed full onThursday , as a diverse crowd came out to commemorate 26 years since the death of the 'father of poets', Fouad Haddad.

Attendees of the poetry evening, which featured the band Eskenderella, included an unprecedented mix of political and artistic Egyptian figures. Cultural events such as these have been largely deserted over the past few years, save those with a political bent.

In a fitting commemoration to the life of a poet, the evening consisted largely of poetry recitation. There were almost no speeches, except for a few words from Haddad's son, poet Amin Haddad and from the LMDC director, artist Mahmoud Hemaida. The speakers recognised Haddad's importance to the development of Arabic slang poetry, which ultimately led to his title as the 'father of poets.'

The evening marked the end of a five-month hiatus for LMDC's cultural salon, which will launch a series of events to pay tribute to Egypt's intellectual and creative pioneers.

The audience included Mohamed Abul-Ghar, head of the Egyptian Social Democratic Party, George Isaac, founder of Kefaya movement, and Karima El-Hefnawy, a political activist. There was no chair left unoccupied in the large hall.

Actor Mahmoud Hemaida, who organised the event, said that although he only got to know Haddad through his poems after he had passed away, Haddad's work helped him enhance both his command of Arabic and his reading of the Qur'an.

Slang poet Ragab El-Sawy, who was introduced to the audience as one of Haddad's successors, recited a poem in praise of Haddad. Many other poets recited Haddad's work, and Eskenderella closed the evening with a performance.

Born in Cairo in 1927, Haddad came from a Lebanese Protestant father and a Syrian Catholic mother. The 'father of poets' grew up amoung a tolerant, intellectual family, later joining the Egyptian Communist Party. He was held as a political prisoner from 1953 to 1956.

Haddad's first poetry collection, entitled "Free Behind Bars" was published the year he left prison. Jailed again in 1959, Haddad begin writing in a new form, utilising colloquial Arabic, after he was released. The decision to use Egyptian vernacular, rather than the formal language of poetry, was a decisive one for Haddad's career. His famous epic poetry collection, Al-Mesah'araty, was performed by the renowned Egyptian singer Sayed Mekkawi in 1996, earning Haddad widespread prestige.

Haddad passed away in 1985, having published only 17 poetry collections. Some 15 collections were published after his death.

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