Poetry News

Rest in Peace Egypt's Poet of the People, Ahmed Fouad Negm

By Harriet Staff


Very sad news coming from the Guardian--

Egyptian poet Ahmed Fouad Negm has died. He was 84.

Negm died in the early hours of Tuesday, his friend and publisher Mohammed Hashem said..

Known as the "poet of the people", Negm's use of colloquial Egyptian Arabic endeared him to his countrymen, who saw in his verse an unvarnished reflection of how they felt about milestones in their nation's history such as the humiliating defeat at the hands of Israel in 1967, the 1979 peace treaty with Israel and the authoritarian rule of Hosni Mubarak.

Negm shot to fame in the 1970s when his poetry was sung by the musician Sheikh Imam Issa. The duo, who mostly performed in popular coffee houses and to university students, inspired generations of youth hoping for change.

He was a supporter of the 2011 uprising that toppled the Mubarak regime. A self-proclaimed secularist, Negm was a critic of Islamists. His poetry communicated both a love for his country and scathing criticism of its ills.

"We are a society that only cares about the hungry when they are voters and only cares about the naked when they are women," he once said, suggesting that people care more about "morality" than ensuring everyone can afford clothes.

Negm had little formal education. Over the course of his life he took jobs as a domestic worker and a postal worker. He was jailed for his political views under the rule of former presidents Gamal Abdel Nasser and Anwar Sadat.

"I am not a humble person and I am not stupid; I know I am a poet that has affected this nation," he once told an interviewer.


Negm's funeral will be held at the Imam Hussein mosque in the medieval section of the Egyptian capital.

Read more about Negm's life at the Guardian.

Originally Published: December 4th, 2013