Sudan: Poet Ali Abd Al-Gayoum - a Versatile Artist

21 March 2021

Khartoum — Poet Ali Abd al-Gayoum (1943-1998 ) is one of the most outstanding figures in the Sudan's and the Arab World's free verse school.

In terms of creativity, especially with respect to verse, Ali is classified within the influential "The Forest and Desert School" that morphed at the hands of poets Alnoor Osman Abbakar and Mohammad Almekkei Ibrahim, when in the mid 1960s these two poets began to question themselves about their identity.

Poet Ali had then asked himself the same question, expressing this in verse.

Poet Ali's short life was a flow of creativity. As a student in the Faculty of Arts, University of Khartoum, Ali projected himself as an illustrative poet, vibrating the podiums and perfuming the poetry nights inside and outside the university.

His poetry was a reflection of his socialist ideology, an incarnation of his humanitarian position towards the national causes.

With these themes his patriotic verse had attracted several singers, foremost the late melodist Mohammad Wardi, who had a profound inclination towards the socialist school.

Ali's song Ewainatik (Your Eyes) is still on the list of Wardi's most favored songs.

He also shone as a theatre director through his activity within the "National Culture" and the "Progressive Thought" societies.

In this he, in collaboration with his friend Taha Amir, had directed and produced the play: "Indigestible Fish", written by Guatemalan playwright Manuel Francisco Galich.

He also in 1969 directed the play "Evening Party for the Fifth of June", written by the Syrian Sa'adallah Wannoos, which was staged on the National Theatre in Omdurman here.

In the late 1960s he co- founded the Abadamak group for Sudanese progressive writers and artists and also the Sudanese Writers Union in the mid 1980s.

As part of this activity, he represented Sudan in the Cinema Cultural Committee in Kuwait and the conference of Afro-Asian Writers in New Delhi.

He also obtained a movie director's certificate from Poland.

This had qualified him to assume the office of director in the National Theatre, then an administrator in the State Cinema Corporation and a lecturer at the Extramural Studies Institute of the University of Khartoum and the Higher Institute of Music and Drama.

He also served in the Scientific Research Institute, Kuwait, and assumed similar jobs in Qatar, Cyprus, Egypt and Jordan. He had translated a lot of works and wrote several film scenarios.

In 1994 he published his only poetry collection entitled Alkhail wa Alhwajiz "Horses and Barriers".

Before that he wrote the play "Twenty Years in the Trial of a Friend".

Films he produced include the "Zar" and "Four Days in Sua'ad's Island".

Following is a sample of his translated poetry:

The Choice

(Translated by Bakhit Bakhit and Aron Aji)

You dare what the wind dares on its massive surge

As if burrowing the earth's belly behind a red curtain

you penetrate the layers of lure and seduction

your companions: nights and winter wine


You never experienced such tastes before

Has the heart ever tasted what it tastes

of restlessness

of burden

and vigilance

Have you ever had what you had of her presence




Surely you dare what the wind dares on its massive surge

yielding to immense sorrow and despair

Have you endured before what you endure this day

tracing the arch of her chest

through the shadow

to her thighs

from hill to plains to mountain to falls

from valley to river to sea to gorges

as though lover's desires crash at nothing save rocks

knocking, knocking at the mute walls


They sealed her behind doors that bar



praise singers

In time of grief death may visit uncalled

Do you run or die of grief at her door?


Do you run or die?

As though she favors you with death

that makes the wind the trees rivers and rain

(not people, radios or newspapers)

cry over you

Does he cry over you who cries over money?

who cries over fortune?

who cries over his victims?

his hideous face smiling under his lamenting mask


Surely only lovers fear for their hearts

they dare passion that turns vigor into waste

the beloved in her silence offers no relief

the beloved offers no relief

Do you run or die when you are the youngest?

Do you run or die when you are not the last?

Do you run or die?

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