Nouri al-Jarrah is a Syrian poet, born in Damascus in 1956. He lived in Beirut since 1981, then Cyprus and, since 1986, in London working as a journalist. He established Al-Katiba [The Woman Writer] literary magazine, publishing 14 issues.

He first attracted attention with his collection of poems, The Boy, published in Beirut in 1982, after which he published various books of poetry including: Keeping up with the Voice (London, 1988); Ode to a Voice (Cologne, 1990); Death’s Childhood (Casablanca, 1992); A Dark Glass (London, 1993); Poetry and Poetry Reflected (Beirut, 1995); The Dawn of April (Beirut, 1996); Hamlet’s Gardens (Beirut, 2003); The Road to Damascus and The Persian Garden (Beirut, 2004); The Day of Cain (Haifa & Beirut, 2013); Noah’s Despair (Beirut, 2014); Abel’s Elegies (Beirut, 2015) and Four Elegies (Istanbul, 2016).

As the exponent of a modernist project, Nouri Al-Jarrah draws on diverse cultural sources in his poetry, which is marked by a special focus on mythology, folk tales and legends, reflecting metaphysical features and deep existential visions. His works have been published in Beirut, Cairo, Algeria, London, Haifa, Nicosia and Istanbul, among others.

He has published over 16 collections of poetry. A recent collection, (A Boat to Lesbos), was published in Milan by al-Mutawassit Editions, and part of it in English translation in Banipal 57 – Syria in the Heart. Selections from his poetry have been translated into a number of Asian and European languages, and his poetry collections have also been published in French, Spanish and Farsi.

He has founded a number of literary magazines, hugely contributing to the Arabic literature/ poetry scene. Among the most prominent were: The Critic (London, 1988-1992); The Woman Writer (London, 1993-1995); The Journey (London, 1995) and currently The New (London, 2015). Despite having to be published abroad, due to the lack of freedom in Arab states, these magazines have still managed to make a profound impact on Arabic literature and poetry.

He has also been influential in reviving the role of travel literature in Arab culture. In 2000, he and Mohammed Ahmed Al Suwaidi established The Centre for Arabic Geographical Literature, based in Abu Dhabi, which administers the annual Ibn Battuta Prize for Travel Literature. During the past fifteen years, many Arab and foreign writers who work in this fascinating field have received the award.  The Centre produces publications and hosts an annual conference.

In April 2018, Banipal Books published the English-language edition of A Boat to Lesbos and other poems, translated from the Arabic by Camilo Gómez-Rivas and Allison Blecker, after a number of the poems were published in Banipal 57, with some being available to read on the Banipal website. It is Nouri Al-Jarrah's first collection of poetry in English translation. A Boat to Lesbos also has editions in French, Spanish, Turkish, Italian, Greek and Farsi.. For more information about the book, and to buy a copy, click here.

On 12 October 2022, his second book in English translation was published by Banipal Books. The Stone Serpent, Barates of Palmyra's Elegy to Regina his Beloved – An Eastern Serenade is translated from the Arabic original by Catherine Cobham. News about it available here and here.

In June 2023 Nouri Al-Jarrah was awarded the 2023 French Max Jacob Poetry Prize for his collection in French translation entitled Le Sourire du dormeur (Actes Sud / Sindbad), translated from the original Arabic by Antoine Jockey. The annual Le prix Max Jacob was founded in 1951 by the Association des Amis de Max Jacob to award a a French work of poetry, and since 2004 also a published collection of poetry in French translation from any other language. 

Contributor's Issues

Banipal 3 - October 1998

Banipal 18 - Autumn 2003

Banipal 56 - Generation '56 (Summer 2016)

Banipal 57 - Syria in the Heart (Autumn/Winter 2016)

Banipal 74 - Celebrating Khalida Said and Modern Arabic Poetry (Summer 2022)

Banipal 63 - The 100 Best Arabic Novels (2018)