Born in the village of Shabtin in Northern Lebanon in 1948, Wadih Sa’adah spent his first twelve years in a place where, in his own words, “the people, fields, trees, rocks, birds and animals were one family”. In 1960 he moved to Beirut, and it was around this time that he first turned to poetry celebrating the community in Shabtin he was to leave behind. Then, at the age of fourteen, poetry became a way to cope with the loss of his father, who died during a house fire. Sa’adeh noted, “Everything was different, and I was filled with a profound feeling of desolation. It was at this time I began to experiment with poetry, perhaps to escape from this feeling. Whatever the reason, poetry became my companion.”
While beginning his career as a journalist, Sa’adeh continued to write poetry, developing an affinity for the works of Rimbaud, Baudelaire and Ginsberg. In 1973, he self-published his first collection, Laysa Lil Massa’ Ikhwah (Evening Has No Brothers), selling handwritten copies on the streets of Beirut. In the same year, Sa’adeh moved to Australia, where he worked for nine months in factories before returning to Beirut. He hitchhiked to France but again returned to Beirut where he settled, working as a journalist until 1978, when he returned to France for three years. In 1988, he emigrated to Australia, where he has remained, working as a writer and editor with the Lebanese newspaper Annahar published in Sydney, and as a poet.
In 1981, Evening Has No Brothers was re-published by Almouassah Aljamiah. Sa’adeh continues to write in his native Arabic and has published ten collections of poetry in Lebanon since the 1980s, winning acclaim in the Arab-speaking world. The Palestinian poet Mahmoud Darwish noted of Sa’adeh’s book Most Likely Due to a Cloud, “[it] is one of the most important collections of poetry I have read in recent years”. Along with English, his poetry has been translated into German, French and Spanish, yet recognition in his adopted home of Australia has been scant.
Sa’adeh explains that his work is often a celebration and recollection of his homeland and an examination of dispossession vested in the search for social justice and freedom. He writes, “Even so, that lost place remains firmly in my heart, for it is the place of my childhood. I know it is a paradise to which I can never return. When I write poetry, it is to keep this paradise alive in my mind. Poetry is not just an expression of the past, it is an act of creation, a dream of renewal, the only way for me to recreate myself as I would wish to be.”
Laysa Lil Massa’ Ikhwah (Evening Has No Brothers) , Beirut, Almouassah Aljamiah, 1981
Al-Miah, Al-Miah (Water, Water), Beirut, self-publication, 1983
Rajul Fi Hawa’ Mustamal Yaq’ud Wa Youfakkir Fil Hayawanat (A Man in Used Air Sitting and Thinking of Animals), Beirut, self-publication, 1985
Maq’ad Rakib Ghadar al Bus (A Seat of a Passenger Who Left the Bus), Beirut, self-publication, 1987
Bisabas Ghaymah ’Alal-Arjah (Most Likely Because a Cloud), Beirut, Dar Al-Jadid, 1992
Mohawalat Wasl Dhiffatayn Bisawt, (An Endeavour to Link Two Banks by a Voice), Beirut, Dar Annahar, 1997
Nass Al-Ghiyab (Text of Absence), Beirut, Dar Al-Masar, 1999
Ghubar (Dust), Beirut, Dar Al-Masar, 2000
Ratq ul Hawa (Alteration of the Air), Beirut, Dar Annahar, 2006
Wadih Sa’adeh’s website
‘Their Place’ on Jehat