Saadi Youssef was born in 1934 in Basra, Iraq. He received his BA in Arabic Literature from the Teachers’ College of Baghdad in 1954. The author of more than forty books of poetry and prose, he has also translated into Arabic major works by such writers as Walt Whitman, Constantine Cavafy, and Federico García Lorca.
About Youssef’s poetry Khaled Mattawa wrote, “His work was distinguished by its precise imagery, transparency and restraint, foregoing the high rhetorical and ideologically laden poetry written in Arabic at the time. Youssef’s poetry focused on personal experiences and impressions of daily life, which was in contrast to the intense modernist symbolism and the precepts of committed literature, which were the two dominant poetic movements in the Arab world then... Youssef’s poetic style became a major influence in contemporary Arabic poetry, alongside Adonis, Nizar Qabbani and Mahmoud Darwish.”
He left Iraq in 1979 and worked as a journalist, publisher, and political activist. He lived in London, England, until his death on June 12, 2021.