Al-Bayati, Abdul-Wahab (1926–99) By Webster, Annie
Iraqi poet Abdul-Wahab al-Bayati was one of the foremost pioneers of Arabic poetry during the twentieth century. His poetry was revolutionary in poetic form and political content. A key figure in the Iraqi Free Verse Movement, alongside Nazik Al-Malaika (1923–2007) and Badr Shakri Al-Sayyab (1925–1926), Al-Bayati defied the formal constraints of traditional Arabic poetry by experimenting with innovative rhyme schemes and metric patterns. His poems articulate a radical leftist commitment to revolutionary change across the Arab World. Such political views forced Al-Bayati to leave Iraq in 1955 and live more than half his life in exile, moving between various Arab and European countries. Over the rest of his life he maintained a difficult relationship with his homeland, an experience that had a major influence on his writing. Al-Bayati published more than twenty collections of poetry and a three-act play. He died of natural causes in Damascus.