So we need poets to challenge received notions, tell us what we don’t know, ask the questions we can’t answer, and wake us up to both doom and Utopia.
— Translator and essayist Eliot Weinberger
Over the decades, the United States has caused extreme damage in Vietnam, Nicaragua, and Iraq. In each of these nations, the populace esteems poetry in a way that U.S. citizens could scarcely imagine. While in a Chinese prison, Ho Chi Minh wrote poetry, while Minister of Culture Ernesto Cardenal and his associate Daisy Zamora sponsored poetry workshops all over the country after the revolutionary triumph.
Dunya Mikhail, author of The War Works Hard, has edited a short and powerful collection of poems, Fifteen Iraqi Poets, published by New Directions, famous for its promotion of international modernism. The collection proceeds chronologically from Badr Shakir al-Sayyab (born in 1926) to Siham Jabbar (born in 1963). Mikhail acknowledged, “It was a nearly impossible task trying to pick only fifteen grains of sand from a shimmering desert.” Read the rest of this entry »