Five Muslim American Poets: "The Muslim American Poet as Self and Other" Symposium

October 26, 2009

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Five poets discuss their work in relation to poetic traditions in English, Arabic, Urdu, and Persian, as well as their individual relationships with their Muslim heritage - which ranges from Kazim Ali's mystical faith to Raza Ali's skeptical non-observance. They talk about experiences in the U.S. and elsewhere in the world - including Fady Joudah's work with Doctors Without Borders in Darfur and Zambia and Ibtisam Barakat's childhood in Ramallah on the West Bank. The conversation touches on the aesthetic and moral dimensions of poetry, their engagement with poetic traditions from different parts of the world and in different languages, and on questions of identity and poetic voice.

This event was recorded as part of the Five Muslim American Poets conference at Northwestern University, which brought together poets with widely varying individual styles who nonetheless share a common Islamic background. Participants read from their work and spoke about the literary, cultural, religious, and political contexts of their writing. 

Poets:

Raza Ali Hasan is an English Professor at the University of Colorado with a focus in modern and contemporary literature, poetry and poetics and translation. His works include two books of poems,67 mogul miniatures and Grieving Shias. He has also had translations published in the Annual of Urdu Studies.

Ibtisam Barakat is a Palestinian-American writer from Beit Hanina, near Jerusalem. Growing up with war and occupation is the focus of Barakat's memoir, Tasting the Sky: A Palestinian Childhood. In 2007, Booklist named it one of the top ten biographies for youth and it was listed as an American Library Association Notable, and in 2008 it won the International Reading Association's Best Non-Fiction Book Award for Children and Young Adults. Barakat is working on her second book.

Fady Joudah is a Palestinian-American poet and physician. He was born in Austin, Texas, and grew up in Libya and Saudia Arabia, returning to the US for college and medical training in Houston, where he lives and works today. He has also volunteered abroad with the humanitarian organization Doctors Without Borders. He is the 2007 winner of the Yale Series of Younger Poets Competition for his collection of poems The Earth in the Attic. In 2006, he published The Butterfly's Burden, a collection of recent poems by Palestinian poet Mahmoud Darwish translated from Arabic.

Kazim Ali is an assistant professor of Creative Writing at Oberlin College and teaches in the low-residency MFA program of the University of Southern Maine. Ali is the author of two books of poetry, The Far Mosque and The Fortieth Day. He also wrote the novels Quinn's Passage, The Disappearance of Seth and Bright Felon: Autobiography and Cities. His work has been featured in many national journals such as Best American Poetry 2007, American Poetry Review, Boston Review, Barrow Street, jubilat and Massachusetts Review. He is a founding editor of Nightboat Books.

Khaled Mattawa is the author of three books of poetry, Amorisco, Zodiac of Echoes and Ismailia Eclipse. He has translated seven books of contemporary Arabic poetry by Saadi Youssef, Fadhil Al-Azzawi, Hatif Janabi, Maram Al-Massri, Joumana Haddad, and Iman Mersal; and he has co-edited two anthologies of Arab American literature. Mattawa has been awarded the PEN award for literary translation, a Guggenheim fellowship, the Alfred Hodder fellowship from Princeton University, an NEA translation grant, and 3 Pushcart prizes. His poems have appeared in Poetry, The Kenyon Review, Antioch Review, Best American Poetry, and many other journals and anthologies. Mattawa was born in Libya and came to the United States in his teens.

Also recorded as part of this event:
-Opening Remarks & Readings by Raza Ali Hasan, Ibtisam Barakat, and Fady Joudah 
-Readings by Kazim Ali and Khaled Mattawa
-"The Muslim American Poet as Self and Other" Symposium

 

Recorded Monday, October 26, 2009 at Northwestern University - Norris University Center.