Adonis was born Ali Ahmed Said in the village of Al Qassabin in Syria, in 1930, to a family of farmers, the oldest of six children. In 1956, after a year-long imprisonment for political activities, Adonis fled Syria for Beirut, Lebanon. He joined a vibrant community of artists, writers, and exiles in Beirut, and cofounded and edited Sh'ir, and later Muwaqaf, both progressive journals of poetry and politics. He studied at St. Joseph University in Beirut and obtained his Doctorat d'Etat in 1973.
Adonis is the author of numerous collections of poetry, including Adonis: Selected Poems (Yale University Press, 2012); Mihyar of Damascus (BOA Editions, 2008); A Time Between Ashes and Roses (Syracuse University Press, 2004); If Only the Sea Could Sleep (Green Integer, 2003); The Pages of Day and Night (Marlboro Press, 2000); Transformations of the Lover (Ohio University Press, 1982); The Book of the Five Poems (1980), and The Blood of Adonis (University of Pittsburg Press, 1971), winner of the Syria-Lebanon Award of the International Poetry Forum. He is also an essayist, an editor of anthologies, a theoretician of poetics, and the translator of several works from French into Arabic.
Over the course of his career, Adonis has experimented with form and content, pioneering the prose poem in Arabic, and taking an influential, and sometimes controversial role in Arab modernism. In a 2002 interview with the New York Times, Adonis said: '"There is no more culture in the Arab world. It's finished. Culturally speaking, we are a part of Western culture, but only as consumers, not as creators."
Adonis's honors include the first ever International Nâzim Hikmet Poetry Award, the Syria-Lebanon Best Poet Award, and the Highest Award of the International Poem Biennial in Brussels. He was elected as Stephen Mallarme Academy Member in Paris in 1983. He has taught at the Lebanese University as a professor of Arabic literature, at Damascus University, and at the Sorbonne. He has been a Lebanese citizen since 1961 and currently lives in Paris.