Many of his poems have also been put into music - most notably Rita, Birds of Galilee and I yearn for my mother's bread, becoming anthems for at least two generations of Arabs.

"He felt the pulse of Palestinians in beautiful poetry. He was a mirror of the Palestinian society," Ali Qleibo, a Palestinian anthropologist and lecturer in cultural studies at Al Quds University in Jerusalem said.

Last year, Darwish recited a poem damning the deadly infighting between rival Palestinian groups Hamas and Fatah, describing it as "a public attempt at suicide in the streets".

Early life

I Come From There,
Mahmoud Darwish

I come from there and I have memories
Born as mortals are, I have a mother
And a house with many windows,
I have brothers, friends,
And a prison cell with a cold window.
Mine is the wave, snatched by sea-gulls,
I have my own view,
And an extra blade of grass.
Mine is the moon at the far edge of the words,
And the bounty of birds,
And the immortal olive tree.
I walked this land before the swords
Turned its living body into a laden table.

I come from there. I render the sky unto her mother,
When the sky weeps for her mother.
And I weep to make myself known
To a returning cloud.
I learnt all the words worthy of the court of blood,
So that I could break the rule.
I learnt all the words and broke them up,
To make a single word: Homeland....

mahmouddarwish.com

He was born in the village of Barweh in Galilee, a village that was razed during the establishment of Israel in 1948.

He joined the Israeli Communist Party after high school and began writing poems for leftist newspapers.

He was put under house arrest and imprisoned for his political activities, after which he worked as editor of Ittihad newspaper before leaving to study in the USSR in 1971.

Originally a member of the Palestine Liberation Organisation (PLO), Darwish resigned in 1993 in protest over the interim peace accords that Yasser Arafat, the late Palestinian leader, signed with Israel.

As a journalist, he worked for al-Ahram newspaper in Cairo and later became director of the Palestinian Research Centre.

In 2000, Yossi Sarid, Israel's education minister, suggested including some of Darwish's poems in the Israeli high school curriculum.

But Ehud Barak, the Israeli prime minister overruled him, saying Israel was not ready yet for his ideas in the school system.

In 2001, he won the Lannan prize for cultural freedom.

Leaves of Olives was published in 1964 when Darwish was 22-years old. Since then more than 20 volumes of his works of poetry have been published.