The Last Iraqi Communist: Saadi Youssef (1934–2021)

Sinan Antoon in the Los Angeles Review of Books:

AT THE CASABLANCA Book Fair in Morocco back in 2009, the Iraqi poet Saadi Youssef was signing the seventh volume of his Complete Poetic Works. A flock of junior high school girls in their blue uniforms were standing nearby. One of them pointed to her friend, telling Youssef: “She, too, is a poet.” He smiled and gestured to the young poet to come forward. She hesitated: “I’m just a beginner.” “I, too, am a beginner. We are all beginners,” said Youssef. The septuagenarian who uttered those words is widely recognized as one of the greatest modern Arab poets. When he uttered those words, he had been writing and publishing poetry for more than half a century. It was neither a hyperbolic statement, nor false modesty on his part. Well into his 80s, one of the most remarkable features of Youssef’s poetry (and his persona) was his restlessness. He was audacious (even reckless, at times) and on an incessant quest for new beginnings.

More here.