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Nazek al-Malaika, at 85; she altered style of Arabic poetry

CAIRO -- Renowned Iraqi poet Nazek al-Malaika, who was famous as the first to write Arabic poetry in free verse rather than classical rhyme, died here Wednesday. She was 85.

Ms. Malaika died of old age at a hospital in the Egyptian capital, where she had lived in self- imposed exile since 1990, said Nizar Marjan, the Iraqi consul here.

Born in Baghdad in 1922 to a mother who was also a poet and a father who was a teacher, Ms. Malaika discovered a love for literature early in life, writing her first poem at the age of 10.

She graduated in 1944 from the College of Arts in Baghdad, where she also studied music. Ten years later, she traveled to the United States to study and received a master's degree in comparative literature from the University of Wisconsin.

In 1947, Ms. Malaika published her first collection of poems under the title "Night's Lover." Her second collection, entitled "Sparks and Ashes," came two years later.

"Bottom of the Wave" was published in 1957, and her fourth collection, "Tree of the Moon," came out in 1968.

She spent 40 years teaching Arabic and literature in Iraqi schools and universities and also wrote literary criticism.

Ms. Malaika left Iraq in 1970, two years after Saddam Hussein's Ba'ath Party came to power.