"The anthology was prepared to eradicate invisibility," writes Nathalie Handal (The Never Field) of Poetry of Arab Women: A Contemporary Anthology. With research help from groups like RAWI (Radius of Arab-American Writers, Inc.) and from Arab-American newspapers and journals like Al Jadid, Handal has gathered work from "most of the older and newer contemporary voices" of the Arab diaspora over 80 poets writing in Arabic, French, English and other languages, and living in Syria, Saudi Arabia, Lebanon, Yemen, Gaza and the U.S. Handal's introduction, along with biographical notes on the poets and many translators, helps to place them.
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The Arab world's poetic tradition predates Islam, but it was through the social revolution of Islam that it became possible to be a poet, an Arab, and a woman. Ancient Arab women are sometimes anthologized, but contemporary poets don't get the attention that they deserve and that this ambitious volume begins to give them. These poems were garnered from throughout the world and translated from Arabic, French, and other languages by many hands. Some of the featured poets have lived their whole lives outside the Arab world, and although many rely on Arab poetic traditions and forms, the "Arabness" of others is subtler. The book's contents vary in quality, for established poets like Naomi Shihab Nye are juxtaposed with little-known American graduate students. Yet out of a cacophony of voices, styles, and visions, deeper understanding of what it means to be an Arab and a poet can be obtained. Although it can be criticized for favoring breadth over depth, this anthology answers a long-felt need, and its arrival should be celebrated. John Green
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Whenever we've had theme-based poetry readings based on Arabic poetry on the New Hampshire Seacoast, I can always predict that someone will bring in Rumi and/or Hafiz and that all... Read morePublished on April 18, 2010 by John Michael Albert
This is a wonderful book! Every high school student should read it. The poems Nathalie Handal collected inspire people to write their own poetry, which is probably the best tribute... Read morePublished on December 17, 2007 by Book Maven
I was unpleasantly surprised after reading the introduction. Not only was it boring and full of unnecessary details, but it abounds in statements like "Palestinian disaster of... Read morePublished on October 6, 2006 by Poetry lover