Poetry News

Google Also Honors Iraqui Poet Nazik al-Malaika

By Harriet Staff

Borges wasn't the only one to receive a "Google Doodle" for his birthday. Feministing reports that Arab poet Nazik al-Malaika was also honored with an image from Google on Tuesday, the 88th anniversary of her birth (famous for being the first Iraqui poet to employ free verse, died in 2007). As critic Salih J. Altoma put it:

Nazik al-Mala’ika occupies a prominent position in modern Arabic literature not only because of her innovative, experimental poetry, but also because of her well-known systematic critical efforts and her views toward important artistic, linguistic, and intellectual issues in modern Arabic literature. Since the publication of her first collection, The Lover of Night (Ashiqat al-Layl, 1947), al-Mala’ika has contributed toward transforming Arabic poetry in terms of its orientation and structure. This is reflected equally in her own poetry and in her critical theorization of the new poetic form known as free verse.

The cultural blog Majall looks at Adrienne Rich's review of a poem by al-Mala’ika, with Rich guessing that the poem is actually more remarkable than translation can suggest. Rich asks, "Has the translation been timid, binding itself within the literal, or within an idea of Anglophone poetic language (e.g. “wondrous”) which, to an American eye and ear, seem artificial?"

In any case, her work has been widely translated, and can be found in anthologies including The Poetry of Arab Women: A Contemporary Anthology; edited by Nathalie Handal, and Modern Arabic Poetry: An Anthology edited by Salma Khadra Jayyusi; as well as Iraqi Poetry Today, edited by Weissbort, Daniel and Saadi Simawe. Her New York Times obituary recalled that "[m]uch of her work dealt with alienation and the fear of fading into oblivion."

Feministing also looks at the number of times Google has honored a woman in this way, noting that it's "appallingly low." Quoting Shelby Knox of Feministe:

“To date Google claims to have created 300 doodles for the United States and 700 internationally that honor holidays and “creativity and innovation.” According to Google’s design team, women lack both. Of 109 innovators, artists, revolutionaries and creators designated important or interesting enough for a doodle, only 8 have been women. It took eight full years for the Google team to find a woman worthy of the honor, which finally went to French pilot Hélène Boucher in May of 2008. Her doodle could only be viewed on the Google France homepage.”

Originally Published: August 26th, 2011