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Baalbek gardens an eternal reminder of poet who was 'hand in glove' with nature


BAALBEK: A municipal space created in memory of the late poet Jawdat Haydar was opened in Baalbek on Sunday. Jawdat Haydar Square and public garden was inaugurated at the Southern entrance of Baalbek by The Friends of Jawdat R. Haydar in partnership with the Culture and Tourism Ministry as part of its Beirut World Book Capital 2009 activities and in association with the Tourism Ministry and the Municipality of Baalbek. 
The square is intended to serve as the cultural gate to Baalbek and features six of Haydar’s poems in Arabic and English including “Never Scratch Nature to Bleed,” “Orpheus,” “Women” and “That’s What I Say” sculpted in stone.
Marking the event, a Tourism Ministry spokesperson announced to a wide applause that the Jawdat Haydar Square had been added to Lebanon’s officially recognized touristic sites nationwide. 
Dr. Leila Barakat, General Coordinator of the Beirut World Book Capital 2009 at the Culture Ministry said: “Our poet departed on January 4, 2006, only for Baalbek to embrace him once again,” so that he remains ever present. 
May Nasr sang “The Sea,” a verse composed by Haydar, while Sahar Taha sang a “Requiem” Haydar composed in memory of his wife Maliha. 
Perpetuating the tradition of 20th century Lebanese writers who have contributed to world literature directly in the English language, Haydar published his first anthology “Voices” (Vantage Press, New York) in 1980. It was followed by “Echoes” in 1989, and “Shadows” in 1998. In 2006, he published his last book “101 Selected Poems” at the age of 101. 
Haydar was a poet intellectual. He advised his fellow country men to “read the past to make the future” since “time was born out of time yesterday.” Haydar did not purport an escapist verse but remained an engaged citizen of the world, a somewhat avant-garde environmentalist of his generation. 
In his preface “That’s Why I Write,” Haydar explains “since I started writing poetry I began to feel that the poet might be the medium in between nature and the world.” 

In his poem “Never Scratch Nature to Bleed,” Haydar advocates that we become “a hand in glove with nature.” Today these lines are sculpted on Baalbek’s stones. 
Baalbek held a special place in the Poet’s life and works. At the peak of the Lebanese 1975-90 Civil War, Haydar chose to retire in his hometown, Baalbek, where he spent the rest of his years. 
It was also in Baalbek that Haydar established Wahat al-Adab (Oasis of Literature), a society of poets who strove to revive Lebanese poetry and enhance collaboration among the poets of the Bekaa valley. Under his presidency, Wahat al-Adab restored the statue of renowned poet Khalil Mutran to the entrance of the historic city, in recognition of the prominence of the native scholar, regarded as a symbol of Lebanese co-existence and diversity. 
Haydar dedicated the rest of his years to working the land, reading and writing verse. 
Insisting he was a “farmer” at heart, Haydar at over 90 years old related, “I still farm my land to get the fresh smell of the earth.” 
“[Haydar] told me once, ‘I have now found a solution to every problem. It is not because I am a superb human being that I say this, but merely because I have adopted optimism as my answer,’” said Rouhi Baalbaki, one of the founding members of the Friends of Jawdat Haydar in his keynote address. 
Haydar’s poem “The Temple in Baalbek” has been incorporated into the official curriculum for the Lebanese national baccalaureate, while a copy currently hangs at the Museum of the Temple of Baalbek. 
Haydar has been honored with the Lebanese Order of the Cedars, the Gold Medal of Lebanese Merit and the Medal la Croix de Grand Officier of France. He has also received several other awards, including the papal medal from Pope John XXIII for humanitarian work. – The Daily Star

Date: 10/20/2009
Article Newspaper: Daily Star
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