Al-Baradoni: Blind poet’s Legacy Lives On (2006-09-13)
by Ismail Al-Ghabiri, Yemen Times
At the end of last month, Yemeni poets, writers, academics and fans marked the seventh anniversary of poet Abdullah Al-Baradoni’s death.
Al-Baradoni belongs to that generation of poets whose insightful visions shaped salvation not only for their fellow citizens, but also for their nations.
In 1982, the United Nations issued a silver coin bearing Al-Baradoni’s photo and hailing him as an impaired artist who went beyond his impairment. He left behind several studies and unpublished works, the most important of which was his autobiography.
Al-Baradoni spent his life struggling against imperialism, dictatorship and reactionism. He fought against all sorts of backwardness, separation and suppression with the vision of a revolutionary who views his nation’s reality and the world around him as he should. This radical intellectual linked his personal and artistic fate with Yemen and the nation’s future.
In his own way, Al-Baradoni loved his country while at the same time refusing to allow anyone to teach him how to love it. Being blind and unable to see faces, he couldn’t know if those listening to his poetry were angry with him. He used to hurl sharp words at them, telling them he had a special love for Yemen.
Born in Baradon village east of Dhamar, Al-Baradoni had a sweet voice and attempted to modernize traditional poetry in all aspects, language, structure and subjects. It’s said that Yemen has three types of poetry: traditional, modern and Baradonian.
While he liked all people, he had a special love for Yemenis. He continued meeting audiences with a happy face, concealing the pain and suffering in his heart. He spent his loneliness in fear and worried about everything. He wouldn’t give up questioning everything, to the point that he was called, “the poet of questions,” and thus prompted surprise in his audience.
Al-Baradoni wrote numerous poetic works. His first poetry collection entitled “From Bilqis’s Land” was printed in Cairo in 1961 and followed by other collections such as “In the Dawn’s Way,” “Tomorrow’s City” and “An Age with No Sense.”
He received a number of awards including Aden’s Arts and Literature Award, as well as other grand prizes such as Iraq’s Abu Tamam Festival Prize and Shawqi’s Prize in Cairo.
Possessing a musical ear, Al-Baradoni’s poems were modeled after the following Arab poetic patterns: Al-Khafif, Al-Ramel, Al-Baseet, Al-Mutaqarab, Al-Kamil and Al-Taweel. Al-Baradoni used dialogue and conversational style in order to allow the reader to spy on poetry with an innovative and surrealistic sense. He did this to avoid direct address with his audience.
Repetition, rhyme and assonance are common in Al-Baradoni’s poetry. He paid more attention to internal music than external, as in his poem entitled, “Armless Conqueror.”
Holding a mystic view of love, women have a strong presence in the blind poet’s early poetry, but are later absent. In his first poetry collection, “From Bilqis’s Land,” the number of poems that can be attributed to his dealings with women is 30 out of 54 poems. His second collection contained a lesser number of poems referring to celebrating such relations, while his last, “The Entities of Other Longing,” has no love poems.
During his last medical visit to Jordan, Al-Baradoni’s heart stopped beating at 10 a.m. on Monday, Aug. 30, 1999, thereby making his name immortal among the 20th century’s most outstanding Arab poets.
Al-Baradoni’s writings range from criticism and philosophy to poetry. He also criticized his poetry collections, particularly his classical poems, which are traditional in form and modern in content.
Al-Baradoni wanted to make himself an encyclopedic and cultured individual; therefore, he also was also a historian, critic, sociologist, philosopher and a complete thinker. He dealt with all of these subjects in his own style to treat the realities of life and people.