Once Upon a Time in Aleppo

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Once upon a Time in Aleppo by Fouad M. Fouad


Translated from the Arabic by Norbert Hirschhorn and Fouad M. Fouad

The Hippocrates Press

£10 ISBN 978-0-9935911-8-1

Publication date: 1st October, 2020

Watch recordings of readings from Once upon a Time in Aleppo from the book launch during our Poems to Live for session on poetry from conflict areas.

Syrian doctor poet Fouad M. Fouad and his family left their city of Aleppo in 2012 and took refuge in Lebanon, where Fouad now teaches at the American University of Beirut. The poems in this book, translated by fellow poet and physician Norbert Hirschhorn together with the author, record the witness of an outraged doctor and writer in times of extremis.



Fouad M. Fouad is a physician and poet from Aleppo. Following the outbreak of the war in Syria, he and his family moved to Lebanon where he is now at the American University of Beirut. Dr Fouad is deeply engaged in research and action on behalf of Syrian refugees. He has published five volumes of poetry in Arabic, the most recent being Once Upon a Time in Aleppo. Several of his poems have appeared in translation in English and French poetry journals. 


Norbert Hirschhorn is a physician specialising in international public health, commended in 1993 by President Bill Clinton as an American Health Hero, and following in the tradition of physician-poets. He now lives in Minnesota. His poems have been published widely, and the most recent of his five collections is Stone. Bread. Salt. Hirschhorn’s work has won a number of prizes in the US and UK. More information is available from his website, www.bertzpoet.com.


Rafael Campo said: “‘Writing hurts,’ opens one of the searing poems in Once Upon a Time in Aleppo from the esteemed Syrian poet and physician Fouad M. Fouad. Such is the paradox of the true healer, who is compelled to respond to the human suffering before us with not merely antiseptics and anesthetics, but also unflinching art. A fractured clavicle is like a wing that cannot take flight; the spleen becomes a silent charnel house of blood; revenant wolves roam hospital corridors. Through these harrowing, haunted poems, we understand that the pain of Aleppo is not some distant, futile conflict in a dusty, foreign city, but instead is inscribed on the very physical bodies we all share – not just recorded in stark headlines, but remembered in our shattered hearts.”

Marilyn Hacker added: “Rarely have two poets collaborated on a work of translation and transformation in such accord. Both distinguished research physicians, accomplished and necessary poets, too familiar with the varieties of exile, they have in their versions of Dr. Fouad’s poems composed a new, urgent music drawing on their multiple and contrapuntal sources.”

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