Cover

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Title Page, Series Page, Copyright, Dedication, Acknowledgments

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pp. i-viii

Contents

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pp. ix-x

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Meet the Poet-Stranger: Three Stories and Their Aftermath

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pp. 1-24

As a writer starting out in the early 1990s, I wanted the company of fellow immigrants who worked in the language of their adopted homelands, chiseling away at their exile and making a home for themselves in poetry. One of my first projects while in graduate...

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Identity, Power and a Prayer to Repatriation: On Writing and Translating Poetry

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pp. 25-40

In December 1988, in my last year in college, I travelled for a week to New York and took Lorca’s Poet in New York with me. I realize the narcissism implied in the sentence, but I’d been carrying the book with me for months at the time. And while on Atlantic Avenue in...

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On the Poet’s Presence: Thinking Back, Thinking Forth, Thinking Darwish and Tagore

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pp. 41-60

I grew up in Eastern Libya, where people’s habits of mind are tied to their vernacular poetry. Like their kin across the border in the Western Desert of Egypt, the inhabitants of Eastern Libya “often punctuated their conversations with short poems” (Abu Lughod...

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Resisting the Lapse into Monologue: On the Poetics of Bilingualism in American Poetry

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pp. 61-73

Within the first twenty lines of “The Waste Land,” T. S. Eliot demonstrates that he is a practitioner of the beliefs he would later state in his essay, “Tradition and the Individual Talent.” His intertextual exhibition aims to show that the poet does indeed have “in his...

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Ethnic American Writing and the Challenge of Tradition

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pp. 74-86

Though the title of this talk refers to writing, I’m thinking mainly about poetry. What difference does it make to focus on poetry as opposed to another genre? That has something to do with what critic John Reilly called “the raw material” of literature, or the easy...

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Writing Islam in Contemporary American Poetry: On Mohja Kahf, Daniel Moore and Agha Shahid Ali

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pp. 87-96

It’s become quite apparent that a growing body of Muslim literature written in European languages is emerging in France, Germany, Scandinavia, the Netherlands, Britain, the United States, and even Italy. The authors of this body of literature are outside two folds...

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Translation Impossible

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pp. 97-100

Some people still recall the brilliant controversial Polish-American novelist, Jerzy Kosinski, author of the National Book Award winning novel, Steps; the remarkable Being There, which was made into an excellent film; and the unforgettable and harrowing The Painted Bird...

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Epic Temptations: On an Unwritten Poem

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pp. 101-117

In late December 1990, I called the cable company and canceled my subscription. In previous months, I caught myself too frequently watching until the same infomercial was broadcast simultaneously on three channels. I was developing an addiction, an overwhelming...

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Four Uneasy Pieces

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pp. 118-131

I am thinking of Toru Dutt, India’s first established poet in English. Born in 1856 to a prominent Calcutta family that converted to Christianity, Dutt spent several years in France and England. At eighteen, she and her family returned to India. It was within these...

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On the Road with Adonis

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pp. 132-134

On an eight-lane stretch of highway, with traffic alongside us streaming at about seventy miles an hour, Adonis looked around and ahead, then said: “When the oil goes, all of this will be gone.” It was one of many memorable moments with the visionary poet...

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Skyping with Saadi, Channeling Li Po

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pp. 135-137

Every now and then, I have the chance to chat with the great Iraqi poet Saadi Youssef. We exchange news, talk poetry and more often than not commiserate on the bad shape of our homelands. Also, while Saadi is speaking, I often find myself listening to an unwritten...

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Poems and Days (A Reader’s Memoir)

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pp. 138-181

Perhaps what we get from a poem is an impression that seeds itself in memory and mind, a sort of legend that grows even as we read the work again. Also, a sense of wonder and admiration, caught in the impression we’ve made of the poet, or something akin to love...