A citizen of the world but of no one land, Iraqi-born poet Saadi Youssef writes of cultural dislocation and self-imposed exile, individual memory and collective history, in tightly-constructed fragments that speak of his experiences while commemorating larger historical moments.

One of the leading contemporary poets of the Arab world, Youssef draws on traditional verse forms while challenging the strictures of traditional Arabic verse in order to craft poems that speak of and to a time but still resonate across generations and histories. Writes Marilyn Hacker, “Saadi Youssef was born in Iraq, but he has become, through the vicissitudes of history and the cosmopolitan appetites of his mind, a poet, not only of the Arab world, but of the human universe.”

Without an Alphabet, Without a Face, which collects more than four decades of his poetry, is the first significant English translation of Youssef’s work. Publishers Weekly says of the collection, “The poems work brilliantly through their differing times and places, pushing unflinching description through a steady determination to foment a more just world.” Unapologetically political, Youssef’s poems challenge injustice and confront corruption wherever they reside.

The author of more than 30 collections of poetry and 7 books of prose, Youssef has also translated into Arabic major works by such writers as Walt Whitman, Federico García Lorca, and George Orwell. He has also worked as a journalist, activist, and publisher. Youssef left Iraq in 1979 and after many detours, has recently settled in London.


Poems by Saadi Youssef

Solos on the Oud

The New Baghdad





    Poetry Center Reading:
    Spring 2005
    (an evening in his honor, Sinon Antoon reading)