Events

Reading: The Poetry of Elia Abu Madi

Thu, April 17, 2008 7:00 pm at Alwan for the Arts

(View all readings »)

Free and Open to the Public

Refreshments and Snacks Will be Served

Elia Dahar Abu Madi was born in the village of Al-Muhaydithah,
Lebanon, in 1890. At the age of 11 he moved to Alexandria, Egypt
where he worked with his uncle, a small businessman. In 1911, Elia
Abu Madi published his first collection of poems, Tadhkar al-Madi.
That same year he left Egypt for the United States, where he settled
in Cincinnati, Ohio. In 1916 he moved to New York and began a career
in journalism. In New York Abu Madi met and worked with a number of
Arab-American poets including Kahlil Gibran. He married the daughter
of Najib Diyab, editor of the Arabic-language magazine Mirat
al-Gharb, and became the chief editor of that publication in 1918.
His second poetry collection, Diwan Elia Abu Madi, was published in
New York in 1919; his third Al-Jadawil ("The Streams"), appeared in
1927. His other works include Al-Khama'il (1940) and Tibr wa Turab
(posthumous, 1960). In 1929 Abu Madi founded his own monthly
periodical, Al-Sameer, in Brooklyn that after a few years started to
appear five times a week. Al-Sameer, one of the longest-running
Arabic newspapers in the United States, contained news and articles
on the Arab community in America in addition to international news.
Abu Madi wrote all the editorials. It ceased publication in 1957, the
year of Abu Madi' s death.

Elia Abu Madi was a prominent member of the The New York Pen League (Al-Rabita al-Qalamiyah, known more familiarly as Al-Mahjar). The Pen League was an Arab American literary movement of the 1920s and 30s that included such important authors as Ameen Rihani, Khalil Gibran, Mikhail Naimy, Nudra Haddad, William Catzeflis, Wadi Bahout, some of whom have been more influential in the Arab world than in the US, as they wrote primarily in Arabic. But even among immigrants, they were important for proving that Arab American literature was not limited to writing about the immigrant experience or to explaining themselves to U.S. audiences. Publications include the literary journal Al-Fanun (The Arts), published by Naseeb Arida; Al-Sayeh (The Traveler), published by Abdal-Masih Haddad; and Al-Sameer (The Entertainer), published by Elia Abu Madi.

While Gibran is most familiar to U.S. readers, Ameen Rihani is
considered by all the "father of Arab American literature." Other
members of the League, among them Mikhail Naimy and Elia Abu Madi,
did not attain their deserved recognition in the United States, even
though Naimy was once nominated for the Nobel Prize in literature.
Similarly, Elia Abu Madi was hardly translated even though he was
considered the most capable and sublime of the Al-Mahjar writers. His
topics spanned themes from love to war. Like other writers of his
group, he was strongly philosophical and political. While many of
their articles addressed issues of American-ness, most often in a
positive light, the works of these writers weighed on the side of
universality.

This event is part of New York City's Immigrant Heritage Week
( http://www.nyc.gov/html/imm/html/home/home.shtml) and sponsored by the Arab American Family Support Center: http://www.aafscny.org/

Last updated: 2008-04-15 14:35:22

Elia Abu Madi
Elia Abu Madi

Alwan for the Arts

16 Beaver Street, 4th Floor
(between Broad St. and Broadway)
New York, NY 10004
(646) 732-3261

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