Five Muslim American Poets: Opening Remarks & Readings by Raza Ali Hasan, Ibtisam Barakat, and Fady Joudah

October 26, 2009

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Five poets with Islamic backgrounds read from their works as part of this day long conference. Drawing from a rich diversity of life experiences - childhoods in Libya, Pakistan, the West Bank, Canada, England, the United States - they brought together divergent literary traditions: the traditions of poetry in English past and present, but also traditions from literatures in Arabic, Urdu, and Persian, as well as the Qur'an itself.

Two have translated poetry from Arabic; one is a physician active in Doctors Without Borders; another has worked to promote mutual understanding between Jews and Palestinians in Israel and the occupied territories. The day culminated in a symposium with all five to explore what it means to be a Muslim poet in America—and in the contemporary world—as each sees it from his or her angle of vision.

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.

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.