Born as an orphan in 1910 in the Syrian city of Manbij, Abu Risha received his primary education in Aleppo and then moved to Beirut to join the American University.
He got a bachelor’s degree in sciences in 1930 from the American University in Beirut before his father sent him to the UK to get acquainted with the textile industry there. Having got to the UK, however, he was dazzled by literature and poetry in particular.
He went back to Aleppo in 1932 and joined the resistance against the French occupation of Syria. But after the French forces departed, Abu Risha found himself in total discord with many of the political conditions of his country. He had strong belief in the importance of Arab unity.
He worked in the Book Authority in Aleppo and later became a member of the Science Academy in 1948. But he made his debut in diplomacy by becoming the Syrian cultural attaché in the Arab League and then became the Syrian Ambassador in Brazil. He later moved to a host of other countries, including Argentina, Chile, India, and the United States.
Abu Risha’s first and only collection of poems was printed 1971. It contains most of his poetry.
He was the epitome of Arab poetry at its best and most elevated form. His diplomatic career could not cripple his aspirations and love for his Arab nation. He had belief that the Arab nation was a great one whose old glories needed to be revived. Abu Risha kept glorifying the Arabs and encouraging them into action until his death on 14 June 1990.
To his readers and hundreds of thousands of admirers, he was one of few poets who could use the Arabic language very accurately and with exquisite mastery. His poetry is no place for redundancy or misuse of words. He used to speak from the very depths of history, connecting the past with the present.
One time he was asked about whether he had any Bedouin origins in his blood.
His answer was, “I’m a Bedouin and I’ll always be proud of that”.
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