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A second life: The poetry of Iraqi-American Dunya Mikhail

Iraqi-American poet Dunya Mikhail
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Courtesy of Cary Loren

We recorded a unique event last month. The Elliott Bay Company’s Rick Simonson had been trying to get the Iraqi-American writer Dunya Mikhail to come for a reading for over a decade. The moment finally materialized.

To start, Mikhail read from her poems in Arabic, with Washington State Poet Laureate Claudia Castro Luna reading the English translations. The substance of the poems and the music of their joint reading made for absorbing listening.

 Mikhail is the author of three volumes of poetry: “The War Works Hard,” “Diary of a Wave Outside the Sea” and “The Iraqi Nights.” Her most recent work is “The Beekeeper: Rescuing the Stolen Women of Iraq.” In it, she interviews women who escaped capture and enslavement by Daesh (ISIS).

 In an NPR interview, Mikhail said, “I still believe that poetry is not medicine — it’s an X-ray. It helps you see the wound and understand it. We all feel alienated because of this continuous violence in the world. We feel alone, but we feel also together. So we resort to poetry as a possibility for survival. However, to say I survived is not so final as to say, for example, I’m alive. We wake up to find that the war survived with us.”

These readings took place at The Elliott Bay Book Company on August 6. KUOW’s Jennie Cecil Moore recorded the event.

Listen to the full versions below: 

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