“He was before our time, but he was ahead of his time,” said LAU President Joseph G. Jabbra, at the university’s Annual Poetry Reading Event held earlier this month at the Beirut campus, in honor of the late Jawdat R. Haydar, a prominent Lebanese centenarian poet.
Gathering students, faculty, staff, and family and friends of Haydar, the event took a closer look at the poet’s work who, 11 years after his death, is still leaving a mark on readers. This includes LAU business student Sara Antar, one of four participants who recited Haydar’s work in front of the audience.
“I learned that age isn’t a measure of success,” said Antar, who read a poem by Haydar which was written when the poet was 99-years-old.
She continued, “Haydar didn’t let age stop him from writing. Instead, he challenged his age and continued writing for his country, humanity, and the whole world with a pen full of hope, peace, and faith.”
Kristiaan Aercke, chair of the English Department at LAU, echoed Antar’s view of Haydar. “He truly loved his country and people. He believed in integrity and decency, Lebanon’s past, present, and future. He was for sure a born poet,” he said in his speech.
Haydar’s poetry has been gaining solid academic acclaim, thanks in part to LAU for having organized three annual symposia at its premises over the past three years. “Indeed, the university holds important events that pay homage to Haydar, and because he is such an important figure, there are also notable ones off-campus that recognize the poet’s work. In fact, one such event was held recently in March, organized at UNESCO, Beirut, where experts tried to answer one question: Why do we read Jawdat R. Haydar?,” explained Ibrahim El-Hussari, lecturer at the Department of Humanities, and key organizer of the university’s poetry event.
In addition to honoring Haydar’s work, attendees had a chance to appreciate students’ selection of the poet’s work and their readings, which allowed them to practice valuable skills. “Public speaking is my passion, and this event involved a large audience so it gave me the opportunity to reveal my skills and challenge myself,” said Antar. “I believe I gained more confidence in myself by reading the poetry out loud, and that is a skill I always strive to improve,” she added.
LAU’s Beirut campus proudly comprises the Jawdat R. Haydar Memorial Study Room located in the Riyad Nassar Library. It was generously donated in 2011 by Haydar’s daughter, Shahina Haydar Osseiran, who was in attendance at this year’s poetry event.