Taha Muhammad Ali

1931–2011
Palestinian poet and short story writer Taha Muhammad Ali grew up in Saffuriya, Galilee. During the Arab-Israeli war in 1948, he moved with his family to Lebanon for a year; since then he has lived in Nazareth, where he owns a souvenir shop. Self-taught through his readings of classical Arabic literature, American fiction, and English poetry, Ali started writing poems in the 1970s. His collections in English include Never Mind: Twenty Poems and a Story (2000) and So What: New and Selected Poems, 1971–2005 (2006).
 
In a direct, sometimes humorous, and often devastating style, Ali combines the personal and political as he details both village life and the upheaval of conflict. Comparing Ali to his contemporaries, John Palattella commented in a review in the Nation: “Whereas Darwish and al-Qasim, like most Palestinian poets, have favored the elevated and ornate rhetoric of fus’ha, or classical Arabic, Ali writes nonmetrical, unrhymed poems that blend classical fus’ha with colloquial Arabic.”
 
Ali traveled to read his work in Europe and the United States, including at the Geraldine R. Dodge Poetry Festival. In 2009, the writer Adina Hoffman published a biography of Ali, My Happiness Bears No Relation to Happiness: A Poet’s Life in the Palestinian Century, which won the 2010 Jewish Quarterly Wingate Prize. He died in 2011.
 

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Poet Categorization

POET’S REGION Middle East

LIFE SPAN 1931–2011

Biography

Palestinian poet and short story writer Taha Muhammad Ali grew up in Saffuriya, Galilee. During the Arab-Israeli war in 1948, he moved with his family to Lebanon for a year; since then he has lived in Nazareth, where he owns a souvenir shop. Self-taught through his readings of classical Arabic literature, American fiction, and English poetry, Ali started writing poems in the 1970s. His collections in English include Never Mind: . . .

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Originally appeared in Poetry magazine.

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