Egyptian poet Ahmed Fouad Negm

Egyptian poet Ahmed Fouad Negm returns the greetings of a neighbor outside his home in Cairo in 2006. (Mohamed Al-Sehety / Associated Press)

CAIRO -- His verses spoke of the sufferings of ordinary people. And they struck a powerful chord.

Egyptian poet Ahmed Fouad Negm, beloved as a colloquial but eloquent voice of the nation for more than four decades, died Tuesday at age 84, his publisher said.

Negm’s working-class life, richly rendered in the colorful Arabic of the street, traced the country’s upheavals and hardships throughout the reign of authoritarian President Hosni Mubarak, who was driven from power in 2011.

His legacy carried down the years: the poet’s daughter, Nawara Negm, was prominent among those activists who pushed for Mubarak’s downfall.

A landmark partnership in the 1970s with the blind musician Sheik Imam helped propel Negm’s work to wider attention and acclaim. Although periodically jailed under subsequent regimes for verses deemed overtly political, he maintained his staunch defense of the country’s poor and disenfranchised.

In one poem, he wrote:

They are the ones with wealth and power

And we are the impoverished and deprived.

Use your mind: guess

Who is governing whom?

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Twitter: @LauraKingLAT

Laura.King@latimes.com