Adonis (Ali Ahmed Said Esber)

Ali Ahmad Said Esber, who goes by the pen name Adonis, is one of the most influential poets, critics, and essayists in contemporary Arabic literature. A seminal figure in modern Arabic poetry, Adonis is known for merging classical traditions with new poetic modes. He also played a key role in the evolution of al-shi'r al-hadith (modern, or free verse) in the late 1940s, a movement in the theorisation and practice of modern Arabic poetry that marked a break from the restrictions of classical meter, forms, and themes in favour of experimentation. Adonis began to create works of visual art – often multi-layered, mixed media calligraphic pieces on paper – in the early 2000s. He scripts segments of classical poetry, and in some cases his own poetry which are layered with small fragments of parchment, cloth, or swatches of colour. Through this work he pays homage to pre-Islamic Arabian poets Zuhayr and Tarafa Ibn Al Abd, whose poems, the Mu’allaqaat (“Suspended Odes”) were said to have been hung in, or on, the Kaaba in pre-Islamic Mecca, and are considered the primary source for early Arabic poetry.