Poetry is the widest, most wonderful, most comprehensive and effective means to convey knowledge and feeling because it touches the heart and penetrates the soul; then it goes to the mind, striking it with a magic wand, even though it may be made of stone.

With the discovery of poetry and poetic writing, man has discovered the beauty of his essence and his high position among creatures. In my opinion, the first to discover this beautiful art deserves to be honored more than the greatest discoverer or inventor, and more than the most sensible professional or industrialist.

The greatness of every nation stands on its men; and the men of the nation are poets, writers, politicians, inventors, those who excel in their crafts, financiers, and clergymen. And to me, the best, the most honorable, and the most knowledgeable of them all are the poets and writers. Strip every nation of its poets and writers, and you will see how much its honor and rank diminish.


—Translated by George Dimitri Selim


From Grape Leaves: A Century of Arab-American Poetry (Interlink Books, 2000). Used with permission of the editors, Gregory Orfalea and Sharif Elmusa, and Interlink Books.