Al Khal (1917–1987)
Portrait by Maha Bayrakdar Al Khal
and poetry in Arabic
Born on December 25, 1917 of Chrisitan
parents, specifically Presbyterians of Greek Orthodox background.
Grew up in Tripoli, Lebanon and graduated from its American School
for Boys in 1934.
Wrote poetry early in life. At seventeen, published my first and
last novel. Henceforth concentrated on writing poetry and literary
criticism together with journalism and publishing as an occupation.
Published the first collection of poems (Al Hurryat) in 1944 immediately
after my graduation in philosophy at the American University of
Beirut. This was followed by "Herodiat", a poetical play
(1954), "Al Bi'r Al Mahjourat" (1958), Qassa'id fi Al-Arba'een"
(1960), "Complete Works and Belated Poems" (1978), "Rassa'il
Ila Don Quikhote" (1979), "Al-Wiladat At Taniah"
In the meantime, published "Al Hadathat fi al shi'her"
a book of critical essays (1978) and many translations from Azra
Pound, T.S. Eliot, Sandburgh, Frost, Khalil Gibran and many others.
In the meantime, also, started in 1971 work on a United Bible Societies
project of a new translation of the Holy Bible into contemporary
Arabic usage, a project designated to be ecumenical. So far, the
New Testament was published in 1978, with enormous success through
the Arabic speaking countries.
Before then, in 1957, founded and edited "Shi'hr", a magazine
for contemporary Arabic poetry. This was to inaugurate the beginning
of modern trend in Arabic poetry. For eleven years (1957-1970),
this magazine struggled painstakingly but successfully against out-dated
and archaic poetical theory and practice. It rallied to its call
and message a new generation of poets throughout the Arab World.
Although it has been out of circulation for fourteen years now,
its influence on Arabic literature in general and poetry, in particular,
is gaining momentum. No serious study on Modern or Contemporary
literature could be achieved, inside or outside academic activity,
without taking into account the work of those poets and critics
whose names were connected with the movement that "Shi'hr"
magazine helped to create and promote.
Lived in New York City, between 1948 and 1955 and became American
Citizen. Joined U.N. Secretariat in 1948 as Editor-Writer in the
Department of Public Information. In 1950, was attached to the U.N.
Mission for Libya as information officer. Resigned in 1952 to become
Editor of Al-Hoda, an Arabic daily with offices in New York City.
But in 1955, returned to Lebanon to pursue the activities mentioned
above. Except for teaching Arabic Literature at the American University
of Beirut (1956-58), concentrated on writing and publishing.
After the Lebanese Crisis in 1975, left Beirut to reside in Ghazir,
a historically renowned town, up the coast from Jounieh and a few
miles away from Byblos.
Travels in Europe and
America, mainly for literary purposes, created the opportunity to
meet with many literary figures of renown, with whom had profitable
correspondence. Among them Arza Pound and Robert Lewell in the United
States; Louis Mac Neice and John Wain in England; Pierre Jean Jouve,
Pierre Emmanuel, Alain Bosquet and René Tavarnier in France.
Was so far translated in part into English, French, Finnish, Armenian
and German. Several academic theses have been written on the "Patriarch"
of contemporary Arabic Poetry and the Christian Arab poet par excellence,
often referred to as the Azra Pound of the Arab World.
Married with 4 children: Tariq, 33. Jawad, 26. Ward, 13 Yusuf, 7.
(Ward and Yusuf are now both a television figures. His wife Maha
Bayrakdar-alkhal is a painter, a writer and a poet)
Awarded in 1975 the Pro Mundi Beneficio Medal of Brazilian Academy
Included in the "Who's Who in the World", "Who's
Who is the Middle Eat and North Africa", "Who's Who in
Lebanon", "International Who's Who in the Arab World",
"The International Who's who of Intellectuals, Men of Achievement"
(3rd. Edition), etc.
Yusuf Al Khal, Ghazir, 1984