Iraqi poet Saadi Youssef dies aged 87 in London

He was one of the Arab world's most respected poets

Saadi Youssef at PEN World Voices, 2007. Photo by Yaffa Phillips
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Iraqi poet Saadi Youssef has died aged 87 at his home outside London, after battling a terminal illness.

Youssef was one of the Arab world's most respected poets.

He is survived by his wife Iqbal, two daughters Mariam and Shiraz and three grandchildren.

Born near Basra, Iraq, in 1934, Youssef leaves a legacy that includes dozens of poetry and prose works and a memoir. He was also a literary critic.

He completed his secondary studies in Basra,  before graduating from the Teachers' College of Baghdad in 1954 with a degree in Arabic Literature.

While he worked as a teacher early on and later turned to literary journalism, Youssef mostly devoted his life to writing.

His impressive array of poetry collections includes 1969's Qasai'd Mari'iyah (Visible Poems), 1971's L'Akhdar Ben Youssef wa Mashaghilihi (L'Akhdar Ben Youssef and His Concerns) and Ashjaru Ithaka (The Trees of Ithaca) in 1992.

He also translated the works of many well-known writers into Arabic – including Walt Whitman, Federico Garcia Lorca, Constantine Cavafy and Yiannis Ritsos.

He also published translations of works from major international poets.

Youssef's own poetic works have also been translated into English, French, German and Italian.

Youssef was also interested in politics and it was his political beliefs that also led to his exile to the United Kingdom.

The poet once described himself as "the last communist", which is also the title of a poetry collection he published in 2007, due to his disagreement with the Iraq communist party's support of the US invasion in 2003. In 2004, he was awarded the Al Owais Prize for poetry.

In 2005 he won the Italian International Prize for the best foreign author.

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