‘Little Prince,’ Poet and Artist Hassan Abdallah Evoked the Beauty of Nature Through Boundless Streams of Vibrant, Passionate, Paradoxical Language

Elie Chalala
Web-based photograph of Hassan Abdallah.
After his passing in 2022, poets, intellectuals, and journalists offered their eulogies of the Lebanese poet Hassan Abdallah (1943-2022), who captivated readers with his words. Among those honoring him were Shawqi Bzay, Abbas Beydoun, Jawdat Fakhreddine, Talal Salman, and others. Without exception, Abdallah’s colleagues and friends remember him as a humble man, one who preferred to remain in the shadows and shun the limelight, festivals, and fiery speeches. To the noted journalist Talal Salman, editor in chief of the defunct As Safir newspaper, the Abdallah of his memories has maintained his childlike innocence even in his old age. As the second anniversary of his death approaches, we remember the late poet, who to many of his friends and acquaintances remains “that friend whose qualities and accomplishments do not go away with the days," in the words of poet Jawdat Fakhr El-Din. 
Those interested in Abdallah's life story can quickly assemble it from fragments his friends and acquaintances shared on social media and in the Lebanese press. Perhaps the most moving remembrance is a piece by his colleague, the young yet established Lebanese poet Maya al-Hajj, daughter of one of Lebanon's renowned poets, Unsi al-Hajj. She writes, “His childhood was a poem. He watched the moon, accompanied nightingales, chased butterflies, and swam with fish. His attachment to the earth was strong despite his knowledge of what was occurring inside. His words were molded with mud and scented with fields and valleys.”
Born in the Southern Lebanese town of Khiam, Abdallah grew up in a family that enjoyed popular literature, stories, and legends, surrounded by rich writing at an early age. He was only 12 years old when he began writing poetry, spending his time memorizing famous poems and biographies. He obtained a bachelor’s degree in Arabic literature from the Lebanese University. Like many intellectuals and artists whose livelihoods could not depend on writing alone under Lebanon’s economy, Abdallah worked as a secondary school teacher. He joined the Institute for the Preparation of Teachers and became acquainted with the two primary literary schools. He met the editors of Shi’ir (“Poetry”) magazine, and through them, studied foreign prose and poetry and fell in love with the works of Chilean revolutionary poet Pablo Neruda. He then met with the editors of Al-Adab (“Literature) magazine, delving into the Arab world’s atmosphere of metric poetry. According to Mohammed Houjeiri in Al Modon, Abdallah was devoted to the Iraqi poet Badr Shaker al-Sayyab. He created his group, the “Poets of the South,” which reportedly attracted attention from the Lebanese University and the Faculty of Education.
Excerpted from “‘Little Prince,’ Poet and Artist Hassan Abdallah Evoked the Beauty of Nature Through Boundless Streams of Vibrant, Passionate, Paradoxical Language” by Elie Chalala, scheduled to appear in the forthcoming Al Jadid, Vol. 28, No. 85, 2024.
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