[Note: This is the fourth in a series of translations of selected letters of the noted Iraqi poet Badr Shakir al-Sayyab.]

Letter #4 (3/25/1954)
The Directorate of Imported Funds, Baghdad, Iraq

My Kind and Respected Brother, Dr. (Suheil) Idres,

Sweet greetings to you.

The kind letter that you sent me has had a deep effect on my soul. It bears witness anew to the nobility of your spirit, the vastness of your heart, and the sincerity of the pledge that you have assumed in the service of the Arab community and its literature which is advancing towards the light. I have made an elite group of friends, writers, and lovers of literature aware of your letter so they are informed of the biased uproar that a group of “preachers” have attempted to create.

It appears that Divine Justice has wished numerous, simultaneous events to occur so that the truth could become evident. Your letter to me and to our brother, Kathim (Jawad), arrived at the same time that the magazine, al-Adeeb, came out displaying a photograph of the “Preacher of Modern Poetry.” “The preacher” had dedicated the photograph to “the great poet, Albert Adeeb!!” This appeared along with a discussion on the great international poets such as Nathem Hikmat, Pablo Neruda and Aragone!! Is there more falsehood than this?

While I was in the office of the editor of the newspaper, (Sada al-Ahali), we had a good discussion about you and your two kind letters. As you know, (Sada al-Ahali) could possibly be the best Iraqi newspaper. In addition, our good friend, Mr. Dhunnun Ayoub, is pleased about the cooperation between the “al-Adaab” magazine and us.

Perhaps you received the letter from our brother, Kathem (Jawad), in which he included an article that exposes some of the plagiarisms of the preachers. This is only the beginning. I believe the article is completely objective and factual and leaves no room to accuse its author of a personal agenda.

I have an interesting story that I want you to know. I’m sure you’ll recall the article that Nuhad al-Takarly published in the al-Adeeb magazine under the title, “Abdul Wahab al-Bayati: The Forerunner of New Poetry,” in which he indicated that this was an introduction to Bayati’s collection called, “Broken Pitchers” that would soon be published. Please note that the publishers of the Iraqi magazine, the “New Culture,” decided to publish that poetry collection, but they stipulated that the author should leave out Nuhad al-Takarly’s introduction because al-Takarly included critical concepts that absolutely contradicted the philosophy of the magazine but which were in concert with every correct concept of true literature: The Literature of Commitment.

In al-Takarly’s opinion, words are, in themselves, the ultimate end… words! Not even sentences or the ideas that the words express when they are combined together. .. Not even the poem as a whole. Consequently, al-Bayati, who until recently defended the accuracy of the ideas that the introduction contained, was obliged to leave it out in spite of his claim to nationality and Democracy, etc.

As for our friend, Nuhad, he still considers his introduction to be the best that a writer could write on poetry criticism and also still considers its deletion to be a personal insult. As a result, the relationship between the poet and the critic has deteriorated. It is probable that the rift between the two colleagues may even widen.

Enclosed with this letter is my poem entitled, “Hymn of the Rain.” I hope that it will meet with your approval and be suitable for publication in al-Adaab. I am extremely embarrassed that this poem may occupy such a large space in your magazine that could be better filled with another more useful poem of higher quality. But what can I do when the overwhelming characteristic of my poems is ultimately their length? Perhaps this is one of the reasons that caused me to hesitate in sending it to you ever since my return from Kuwait a few months ago.

In closing, please convey my regards to Mr. Abdullah Abddulda’m whose writings I greatly admire. I promise to meet your expectations and to cooperate with you to the maximum of my potential for the sake of our mutual Arab interest. Additionally, your hope to strengthen the ties of love between us gratifies me immensely. Trust me, my kind friend that I wish the same from the depth of my heart.

Take care of yourself. From the one who harbors for you the purest of love, admiration, and respect.

Sincerely yours,
Badr Shakir al-Sayyab.

[From the book, al-Sayyab’s Letters, by Majid al-Samurra’i, (Beirut: Al-Mu’assasa al-‘Arabiya li-al-dirasat wa-al-Nashr, Second Edition, 1994, p. 105). Translated from the original Arabic and with an introduction by George Nicolas El-Hage, Ph.D., Columbia University.]