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Inclined to Speak

An Anthology of Contemporary Arab American Poetry

Edited by Hayan Charara

Publication Year: 2008

At no other time in American history has our imagination been so engrossed with the Arab experience. An indispensable and historic volume, Inclined to Speak gathers together poems, from the most important contemporary Arab American poets, that shape and alter our understanding of this experience. These poems also challenge us to reconsider what it means to be American. Impressive in its scope, this book provides readers with an astonishing array of poetic sensibilities, touching on every aspect of the human condition. Whether about culture, politics, loss, art, or language itself, the poems here engage these themes with originality, dignity, and an unyielding need not only to speak, but also to be heard. Here are thirty-nine poets offering up 160 poems. Included in the anthology are Naomi Shihab Nye, Samuel Hazo, D. H. Melhem, Lawrence Joseph, Khaled Mattawa, Mohja Khaf, Matthew Shenoda, Kazim Ali, Nuar Alsadir, Fady Joudah, and Lisa Suhair Majaj. Charara has written a lengthy introduction about the state of Arab American poetry in the country today and short biographies of the poets and provided an extensive list of further readings.

Published by: University of Arkansas Press

Title Page, Copyright Page

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Introduction

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pp. xiii-xxxiii

The history of literature and of criticism demonstrates that if anything is constant in our understanding of the literatures of the world, it is the varied and changing conceptions of those literatures. Identity only further complicates the matter, and for Arab American poetry this also happens to be the sphere toward which most discussions gravitate and the traps from...

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Elmaz Abinader

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pp. 3-12

Elmaz Abinader is the author of Children of the Roomje, the first memoir about Arab Americans published in the United States by a trade press. A second memoir, From This Country, chronicles her Arab upbringing in a small Appalachian town. Abinader’s book of poetry, In the Country of My Dreams . . . , which has been described as “expansive” and possessing an...

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Etel Adnan

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pp. 13-28

Born and raised in Lebanon, Etel Adnan studied philosophy at the University of California–Berkeley and Harvard. Her novel about Lebanon’s civil war, Sitt Marie Rose, originally written in French, is considered a classic of Middle Eastern literature and has been translated into several languages. Her poetry, too, has received worldwide attention and garnered her...

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Saladin Ahmed

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pp. 29-31

Saladin Ahmed was born in Detroit, Michigan, raised in neighboring Dearborn (home to the largest Arab American community in the United States), and educated at the University of Michigan and Rutgers University. His lineage is Lebanese, Egyptian, and Irish, and his poetic influences, evident in the eclecticism and multiplicity of voices found in his work, range...

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Kazim Ali

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pp. 32-36

Kazim Ali is the author of two poetry books, The Far Mosque and The Fortieth Day, and a novel, Quinn’s Passage. His poems have been described as “musical” and “metaphysical,” bringing “discontinuity to the rapid shifts of postmodern disjunction.” Through a mixture of “painterly minimalism, open-field technique and Near Eastern traditions,” he revives “the...

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Assef Al-Jundi

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pp. 37-40

Although he is the son of an accomplished Syrian poet, Assef Al-Jundi did not begin writing poetry until moving to the United States. His poems have appeared in numerous anthologies, including Poetic Voices without Borders, Inheritance of Light, Between Heaven and Texas, and The Spaces between Our Footsteps: Poems and Paintings from the Middle East. Born in Syria...

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Alise Alousi

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pp. 41-45

Alise Alousi was born in 1965, her mother from Detroit, her father from Baghdad. Both places continue to influence her life and writings, in ways both imaginable and unimaginable. Alousi studied literature and creative writing at Wayne State University and spent a summer at the Naropa Institute’s Jack Kerouac School of Disembodied Poetics. Her poems have appeared...

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Nuar Alsadir

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pp. 46-48

Nuar Alsadir’s poems “are a delicate mix of the quotidian and the profound. In witty, vibrant, always surprising turns, she reveals to us the weight of each fleeting moment. ”Widely published in such journals as Slate, Ploughshares, the Kenyon Review, Grand Street, and AGNI, as well as various anthologies, Alsadir teaches writing at New York University, where she also earned an...

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Sinan Antoon

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pp. 49-55

Sinan Antoon studied literature at Baghdad University before moving to the United States after the 1991 Gulf War. He earned degrees in Arab studies at Georgetown and Arabic literature at Harvard. Antoon is the author of two poetry books, The Baghdad Blues and A Prism: Wet with Wars, and a novel, I`jam, and his poems, essays, and translations have appeared in...

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Walid Bitar

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pp. 56-62

Walid Bitar was born in Beirut in 1961, spent his childhood there, and later immigrated with his family to Canada. His poems, collected in Maps with Moving Parts, 2 Guys on Holy Land, Bastardi Puri, and The Empire’s Missing Links, are often “torn between the comic and the inconsolable,” exploring “the conflicts and tensions inherent at the intersection of traditional Western...

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Ahimsa Timoteo Bodhrán

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pp. 63-72

Born in the South Bronx in 1974, Ahimsa Timoteo Bodhrán earned an M.F.A. from Brooklyn College and is a Ph.D. candidate in American studies from Michigan State University. This coming together of artistic and critical traditions is echoed in his poetry, which engages and is influenced by the work of women and queer people of color, themost influential being...

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Hayan Charara

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pp. 73-83

Born in Detroit, Michigan, in 1972, Hayan Charara studied biology and English at Wayne State University in Detroit, cultural theory at New York University, and literature at the University of Houston. His poems are “intensely personal,” “hard-bitten and meditative,” and possess “a healthy dose of humility and openness to both the wonder and the terror of this...

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Sharif S. Elmusa

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pp. 84-92

Within a year of his birth in Palestine in 1947, Sharif S. Elmusa and his family were made refugees. He grew up in a refugee camp in Jericho. He eventually left to attend Cairo University, then earned a master’s degree from Northeastern University in Boston and in 1987 received a Ph.D. from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. His poems have appeared in...

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Hedy Habra

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pp. 93-101

Of Lebanese descent, Hedy Habra was born in Heliopolis, Egypt. She studied at the Faculté Française de Médecine et de Pharmacie of Beirut and, after living for several years in Brussels, moved to the United States, where she earned degrees in English and a Ph.D. in Spanish literature from Western Michigan University. In addition to poetry, she has written critical studies on...

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Marian Haddad

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pp. 102-106

Marian Haddad’s poems possess a “richness of language and cultural identity” and insist on the “connective instead of divisive” aspects of difference. No doubt, her background informs these traits. Born in El Paso, Texas, to Syrian immigrants, she was the only one of ten siblings to be born in the United States and, in her childhood, spent a good deal of time on the Mexican...

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Suheir Hammad

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pp. 107-119

Suheir Hammad has been described as “a new voice with an authentic blend of language that’s her own,” and her poems have received wide acclaim. She is the recipient of an Audre Lorde Writing Award, an Emerging Artist Award, and a Tony Award as an original cast member and writer for Russell Simmons Presents Def Poetry Jam on Broadway. Hammad’s poetry often...

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Sam Hamod

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pp. 120-129

Sam Hamod’s poems arise from “a full, generous heart” and a sensibility “keenly attuned to subtleties of feelings and perceptions.” Hamod is the author of more than ten poetry books, most recently Dying with the Wrong Name: New and Selected Poems: 1966–1980, The Arab Poems,The Muslim Poems, and Just Love Poems for You. Hamod has taught at the Iowa Writers’ Workshop...

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Lara Hamza

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pp. 130-131

Lara Hamza was born in Beirut and by the age of six had lived in Lebanon, Libya, Bahrain, and the United States. Her family shuffled between Florida and Michigan, eventually settling in the latter, where she now lives and teaches. She was educated at the University of Michigan and Ohio State University. Her poems possess “a uniquely ‘liminal’ voice—at once...

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Nathalie Handal

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pp. 132-136

Born to Palestinian parents, Nathalie Handal has lived in Europe, the United States, the Caribbean, Latin America, and the Arab world. She studied English and drama at the University of London, fiction writing at Humber College in Toronto, and poetry at Bennington College and also earned degrees from Simmons College in Boston. Her poems, collected in two books...

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Samuel Hazo

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pp. 137-147

Poet, novelist, essayist, and playwright Samuel Hazo founded and continues to direct the International Poetry Forum in Pittsburgh, where he is also the McAnulty Distinguished Professor of English Emeritus at Duquesne University. He writes poetry of “immense intelligence, lyricism, and humanity,” with “perfect pitch” and “ever-varied grammatical attack.” Among his...

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Lawrence Joseph

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pp. 148-164

Lawrence Joseph was born in Detroit, Michigan, in 1948. His grandparents, Lebanese and Syrian Catholics, were among the first Arab emigrants to Detroit. He earned degrees from the University of Michigan, the University of Cambridge, and the University of Michigan Law School. Before moving to New York City, where he practiced law and eventually joined the...

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Fady Joudah

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pp. 165-170

A physician with Doctors without Borders, Fady Joudah was selected by Louise Glück for the Yale Younger Poets prize for his first book, The Earth in the Attic. His poems have appeared in such journals as the Beloit Poetry Journal, the Kenyon Review, and Prairie Schooner and have received numerous awards and nominations, including the River City Poetry Award and the Pushcart...

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Mohja Kahf

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pp. 171-176

Mohja Kahf ’s poetry “offers articulate, passionate challenges to commonplace perceptions” of the Middle East and its people, striking “notes of humor, compassion, outrage and celebration that resonate across the literary register.” Throughout her writings—she is the author of a poetry book, E-mails from Scheherazad; a novel, The Girl in the Tangerine Scarf; and a scholarly...

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Pauline Kaldas

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pp. 177-180

Pauline Kaldas, born in Egypt, immigrated with her parents to the United States in 1969, at the age of eight. She is the author of Egyptian Compass, a collection of poetry, and Letters from Cairo, a travel memoir, and the coeditor of Dinarzad’s Children: An Anthology of Contemporary Arab American Fiction. Her work has appeared in a variety of journals and...

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Lisa Suhair Majaj

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pp. 181-185

A Palestinian American, Lisa Suhair Majaj is the author of two poetry chapbooks, These Words and What She Said. Her poems “remind us what it is to be human,” utilizing a variety of “ways of knowing,” from the lyrical to the political, the historical to the spiritual. A widely published poet, Majaj is also one of the United States’ foremost scholars of Arab American literature and has coedited three collections of critical essays. Born in a small Iowa...

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Jack Marshall

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pp. 186-197

Jack Marshall was born in 1936 in Brooklyn, New York, to an Iraqi father and a Syrian mother. He is the author of several poetry volumes, including Gorgeous Chaos: New Selected Poems 1965–2001 and Sesame, winner of the PEN Center West Literary Award and a National Book Critics Circle Award finalist. “Supple and mystical,” Marshall’s poems are marked by an...

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Khaled Mattawa

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pp. 198-210

Born in Benghazi, Libya, Khaled Mattawa immigrated to the United States in 1979 at age fifteen. He lived in the South for many years, completing high school in Louisiana and earning degrees from the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga and from Indiana University. Of his first poetry book, Stanley Moss wrote that it would be “an oversimplification to say that...

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D. H. Melhem

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pp. 211-228

D.H. Melhem was born in Brooklyn, graduated from New York University, and earned her M.A. and Ph.D. from the City University of New York. She is the author of seven poetry collections, her Notes on 94th Street the first book of poems in English by an Arab American woman. Her writings (including poems, scholarly books, essays, novels, and a musical...

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Philip Metres

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pp. 229-239

Poet and translator Philip Metres was born in 1970 in San Diego. He graduated from Holy Cross College and earned both an M.F.A. and a Ph.D. from Indiana University. He writes “subtle, accomplished, shimmering poems that explore the nuances of being an outsider in a language.” He is the author of two poetry chapbooks, Instants and...

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Haas H. Mroue

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pp. 240-246

A graduate of the University of California–Los Angeles Film School and the University of Colorado, Haas H. Mroue authored or coauthored over twenty-five travel guidebooks. His poetry collection about the Lebanese civil war, Beirut Seizures, “is a powerful and artful response to a historical moment marked by elusiveness and pain.” With their “noun-centered...

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Adele Ne Jame

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pp. 247-252

Adele Ne Jame is the author of two poetry books, Inheritance and Field Work, which was described as “the work of a truly original voice: a one-of-a-kind wonder.” Her Arab heritage, and her adult life lived in French Polynesia and the islands of the South Seas, give her poetry “its rich ambiance and evocative landscape.” Her poems have appeared in such...

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Naomi Shihab Nye

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pp. 253-264

“In the current literary scene,” the late William Stafford wrote, “one of the most heartening influences is the work of Naomi Shihab Nye.” Nye lives in San Antonio with her husband, photographer Michael Nye, and their son. Her books include You & Yours, Going Going, A Maze Me, 19 Varieties of Gazelle: Poems of the Middle East (a National Book Award finalist)...

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Gregory Orfalea

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pp. 265-268

Gregory Orfalea is the author of The Arab Americans: A History and several other books, including two poetry collections. “Difficult, playful, seeming to move at times to the very edge of speech,” his poems “escape the silence of history.” Orfalea is also coeditor of the groundbreaking anthology Grape Leaves: A Century of Arab American Poetry. Director of the Center for...

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Kevin Gerard Rashid

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pp. 269-274

Lyrical and narrative, Kevin Gerard Rashid’s poems possess an honesty that gives them their hard edge. Often sparked by humor and Rashid’s insistence on looking past the obvious, the subjects and themes of his poems reveal the unexpected and more than what was bargained for. His poems have appeared in many journals and anthologies, including...

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Sekeena Shaben

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pp. 275-280

Sekeena Shaben was born in Canada and studied at the Jack Kerouac School of Disembodied Poetics. Her poetry and fiction, which have appeared in numerous journals and anthologies in Canada and the United States, were recently set to music in American composer Libby Larsen’s This Unbearable Stillness: Songs from the Balcony. Shaben, the author of the poetry book...

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Deema K. Shehabi

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pp. 281-285

Deema K. Shehabi was born in Kuwait in 1970, to Palestinian parents. She came to the United States to attend Tufts University, where she studied history and international relations, and also earned a master’s degree in journalism from Boston University. Her poems, widely published and translated into Arabic, Farsi, and French, search for “the interconnectedness” that results from...

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Matthew Shenoda

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pp. 286-296

A Coptic poet and activist, Matthew Shenoda received an American Book Award for his first book, Somewhere Else, which was also named a book of the year by Poets & Writers Magazine. “As much about oppression and rebellion as they are about wordplay and jazz,” his poems “leap from contemporary urban America to pre-industrial Egypt, trying to make sense...

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Zaid Shlah

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pp. 297-303

“As much at home with the expansive Qasida tradition as with the work of Ezra Pound, William Carlos Williams, and Derek Walcott,” Zaid Shlah’s poems blend contemporary voices with the ancient traditions of Iraqi and Arabic poetry. Shlah’s first book is Taqism. A native of Calgary, Canada, Shlah is the recipient of an American Academy of Poets Award and lectures...

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David Williams

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pp. 304-308

David Williams is the grandson of Lebanese immigrants whose last name was anglicized from Melhem. Williams is the author of two poetry books, Traveling Mercies and Far Sides of the Only World, and his poems have appeared in such journals as the Atlantic Monthly, the Kenyon Review, the Hayden’s Ferry Review, and Ploughshares. His poems demonstrate...

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Eliot Khalil Wilson

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pp. 309-315

Eliot Khalil Wilson, a native of Virginia, received his Ph.D. in critical theory and American drama from the University of Alabama. His poems, which have garnered awards from the Academy of American Poets and a fellowship from the National Endowment for the Arts, “enliven us . . .make us more suspicious of our work-a-day lives...

Further Reading

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pp. 317-323

Acknowledgments

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pp. 325-330

Index of Authors and Titles

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pp. 331-333

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Author

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pp. 334-

Hayan Charara was a visiting professor of poetry writing at the University of Texas at Austin in 2005. Before that he taught in New York City. He is the author of two collections of poetry, The Sadness of Others (Carnegie Mellon, 2006) and The Alchemist’s Diary (Hanging Loose, 2001). Born...

Back Cover

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E-ISBN-13: 9781610752060
E-ISBN-10: 1610752066
Print-ISBN-13: 9781557288677
Print-ISBN-10: 1557288674

Page Count: 328
Publication Year: 2008

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Subject Headings

  • American poetry -- 21st century
  • American poetry -- Arab American authors.
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