Palestine has a rich history of writing in a number of genres: poetry, literature, playwrighting and essays. The accumulated body of work across the genres reflects the long association with the ancient land of Palestine, from peaceful times through the British occupation, the Nakba of 1948, when the land was stolen, through to the current occupation, exercised through military force, illegal land grabs and social apartheid.
The following list is an introduction to Palestinian poetry via some of its prominent practitioners.
Mahmud Darwish (1941-2008): regarded in his time as the national poet of Palestine ; the major themes of his writing were dispossession and exile.
Samih al-Qasim (1939-2014): a resistance poet who viewed his writing as revolutionary work, he was hounded, banned and jailed by Palestine’s occupiers.
Fadwa Tuqan (1917-2003) : the “Poetess of Palestine” whose work reflected her resistance to occupation.
Mourid Bargouti (1944-2021): literary prize-winner, regarded as a “symbol of the national struggle”.
Taha Mohammad Ali (1931-2011) : his work is a non-metrical, unrhymed fusion of classical and colloquial.
Rashad Hussein (1936-1977): he encouraged dialogue between Arabs and Jews but campaigned against inequality ; translated work into Hebrew.
Jabra Ibrahim Jabra (1919-1994) : inspired by Arabic folklore and literature ; migrated to Iraq after the Nakba.
Ibrahim Tuqan (1905-1941): a nationalist poet who rallied Arabs against the British mandate ; Fadwa Tuqan’s brother.
Muin Bseiso (1926-1984): awarded the Palestinian Revolution Shield ; work translated into 11 other languages.
Abu Salma (1909-1980): awarded the Lotus International Literature prize in 1978 ; founding member of the PLO.
Khalil al-Sakakini (1878-1953) : Palestinian patriot, progressive teacher, Europhile, Orthodox Christian and anti-Zionist.
Bashir Copti (1929-2016): poet, publisher, teacher and author of a book on the history of Palestine ; emigrated to Jordan after the Nakba and later to Lebanon.
Said Al Muzayin (1935-1991) : wrote the lyrics for the Palestinian national anthem ; a patriot who worked for the PLO and the Palestinian National Liberation Movement.
Abdul Rahman Ahmed Jibril Baroud (1937-2010) : began writing poetry in primary school ; interned in 1948, later moved to Cairo.
Daud Turki (1927-2009): leader of the anti-Zionist Red Front, jailed for 17 years ; behind bars wrote ‘Wind of Struggle’.
Edmon Shehadeh (1933-2017): awards for literature, theatre production and contribution to Arab culture.
Hussain Bargouthi (1954-2002): poet, writer, critic, lyricist, playwright and philosopher ; founding member of the Palestine House of Poetry.
Asma Tubi (1905-1983): considered poetry the “nourishment of her soul”, she also wrote plays and worked in newspapers, magazines and on radio.