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Syrian Poet Nizar Qabbani Dies

April 30, 1998

LONDON (AP) _ Nizar Qabbani, the Syrian-born poet admired by generations of Arabs as the master of love verse, died today at his home in London. He was 75.

His family said he died of a heart attack. The poet had been in poor health for some months.

Syrian President Hafez Assad planned to send a plane to take Qabbani’s body back to his native land.

In Cairo, Gamal el-Ghitanti, the Egyptian novelist and editor of the weekly News of Literature, described Qabbani as the most popular Arab poet of the 20th century.

``He was by any measure a great Arab poet who made a big effort to make his poetry understandable to all people and not only to the elite,″ he told The Associated Press.

In Damascus, the Syrian poet Youssef Karkoutly said Qabbani was ``as necessary to our lives as air.″

Qabbani became popular in 1954 when he published his first volume ``Childhood of A Breast, ″ which broke from the conservative traditions of Arab literature.

He later wrote poems dealing with social and political issues. After the 1967 Arab-Israeli war he lamented in poetry what he saw as a bitter defeat of the Arab states.

Qabbani also was a committed Arab nationalist. Two themes dominated his verse: dictatorship and the Arab-Israeli conflict.

His later work also criticized the male-dominance of Arab society and its attempts to deprive women of their rights. In his poem ``Drawing with Words″ he wrote: ``When a man wishes a woman he blows a horn,/But when a woman wishes a man she eats the cotton of her pillow.″

He wrote more than two dozen books of poems. He also contributed to the London-based Arabic-language newspaper, al-Hayat.

In 1973 he married Balqis al-rawi, an Iraqi teacher whom he had met at a poetry recital in Baghdad. She was killed in a bomb attack by pro-Iranian guerrillas in Beirut in 1981 while working for the Iraqi Embassy’s cultural section.

He is survived by two daughters and a son.

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