Poetry International Poetry International

Gihan Omar

Gihan Omar

Gihan Omar

(Egypt, 1971)
Gihan Omar, whose first name means "world" and "universe", was born in 1971 in Egypt. She studied philosophy at the University of Cairo and graduated with a thesis about Nietzsche's On the Genealogy of Morals.
Omar once contended (in the Al Ahram weekly) that she much prefers reading novels and books on philosophy to reading poetry; her own poems are the result of her relationship with other arts and forms. In the same article she noted that she does not feel connected to Egyptian poetry of the 90’s, and feels separate from other particular trends as well. Instead, she says, “I belong to the poetry of all centuries.”

Omar published her first collection Light Feet in 2005. This seems rather late to make a debut as a poet, but in her poem ‘EVERYDAY ACTIONS’ she appears to give an explanation:

I fall silent, like a stone,
I roar like a waterfall,
I’m ruined by slander,
I speak with clouds I love
[tr. Kareem James Abu-Zeid]

And in an even more direct statement she has claimed, “I have always resisted the urge to write.”

Nevertheless, Omar’s second collection followed soon after the first. In 2007, Before We Hate Paolo Coelho appeared, and in 2013 her third book Walking Behind the Mirror was published.

In her poem about sculptor Frédéric Auguste Bartholdi, Omar gives voice to one of her major themes, the desire for freedom. Bartholdi is best known for designing the Statue of Liberty in New York, a statue that in her words longs for freedom itself:


is a statue.
Liberty’s a statue that’s fixed to its base.
Its right hand is raised.
From time to time it shakes off small hairs
that fell from Bartholdi’s beard
and stuck to its long robes.
The statue’s afraid of the torch turning
into actual flame.
The statue’s unable to walk around at night
on the streets of New York.
The statue’s afraid, unable . . .
The statue wants freedom.
                                                   [tr. Kareem James Abu-Zeid]
© Kees Nijland (Translated by Feline Streekstra)

Light Feet. Sharqyat, Cairo, 2004
Before We Hate Paulo Coelho. Sharqyat, Cairo, 2007
Avant de détester Paulo Coelho. Tr. Suzanne El Lackany. L'Harmattan, Paris, 2011
Walking Behind the Mirror. Dar al-Ain, Cairo, 2013

Gemeente Rotterdam
Nederlands Letterenfonds
Stichting Van Beuningen Peterich-fonds
Prins Bernhard cultuurfonds
Lira fonds
J.E. Jurriaanse
Gefinancierd door de Europese Unie
Elise Mathilde Fonds
Stichting Verzameling van Wijngaarden-Boot
LantarenVenster – Verhalenhuis Belvédère