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The War Works Hard Paperback – April 20, 2005


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 80 pages
  • Publisher: New Directions Publishing Corporation; First Edition edition (April 20, 2005)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0811216217
  • ISBN-13: 978-0811216210
  • Product Dimensions: 9 x 6.1 x 0.3 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #935,363 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

"What good luck!/ She has found his bones." So begins a litany of horrors from an Iraqi poet who witnessed Saddam's regime's atrocities firsthand. Mikhail, 40, works in Arabic, Chaldean and English, and had to flee Iraq in the years just before the current war; after a stint in Jordan, she now lives in Michigan, where the poems in the first section here were composed over the past few years. They are forceful and direct, with ironies that ring through their blunt admonishments: "Please don't ask me, America./ I don't remember their names/ or their birthplaces./ People are grass—/ they grow everywhere, America." In some, the speaker imagines life in wartime Iraq or writes in one of its many voices, including mythic ones ("I am Inanna," begins one in the Sumerian love goddess' voice, "[a}nd this is my city"). In others, she channels grief or anger, as in a bitter and beautiful set of "Non-Military Statements." The book's other two sections contain poems from the earlier collections Almost Music (1997) and The Psalms of Absence (1993) respectively; their coverage of the Gulf War makes clear just how much, for Iraqis, war has been a nightmarish way of life, with the U.S. playing a recurrent role. Stark and poignant, Mikhail's poems give voice to an often buried, glossed-over or spun grief. (Apr.)
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Review

A timely book. -- Boston Review, Susan Barba

An urgent book…slaps her readers awake. -- Matthew Rothschild, The Progressive

Stark and poignant, Mikhail's poems give voice to an often buried, glossed-over or spun grief. -- Publishers Weekly, 18 April 2005

This volume exhibits a new, and unfamiliar, voice from the Middle Eastern world. -- Confrontation

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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful By Fawzi M. Yaqub on August 20, 2005
Format: Paperback
This book is full of eloquent and very forceful poems dealing with life in Iraq and some of its heart wrenching experiences during the last 20 years. Many of these poems have appeared in Arabic in a book with the same title (In Arabic, *Al-harb taamal bijidd*) published by Al-Mada P.C., Damascus, Syria. The translation into English by Elizabeth Winslow is excellent and conveys a lot of the simplicity and force of the original poems.

What I admire most in Dunya Mikhail's poetry is her ability to take simple words and turn them into beautiful poems that, alternately, delight, move, surprise, and even baffle her readers. This simplicity of words is more apparent in Arabic than in English. Typical of her poetry and its unexpected effect on the reader is "The Jewel," a poem in which she compares the collapse of a bridge during the 1991 American bombing of Baghdad to the dropping of a jewel by the lady on the Titanic. "It no longer stretches across the river. / It is not in the city, / not on the map. / The bridge that was . . . / The bridge that we were . . . /The Pontoon bridge / we crossed every day . . . / Dropped by the war into the river / just like the blue jewel / that lady dropped / off the side of the Titanic."

In another poem she writes, "Yesterday I lost a country. / I was in a hurry, / and didn't notice when it fell from me / like a broken branch from a forgetful tree. / Please, if anyone passes by / and stumbles across it, / perhaps in a suitcase / open to the sky, / or engraved on a rock / like a gaping wound, / ... / If anyone stumbles across it, / return it to me please. / Please return it, sir. / Please return it, madam. / It is my country . . . / I was in a hurry / when I lost it yesterday.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Little Rock reviewer on August 19, 2005
Format: Paperback
Regardless of your politics, these poetics are just outstanding. As a fairly macho guy not given to over emotionalism, I can say that one piece in this collection nearly brought me to tears. It's moving, artful, thoughtful, and a perspective and a voice that is so important and so silent befoe this. Read it. Buy copies for your friends.
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2 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Robert Philbin on May 12, 2007
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
The war works hard

by Robert Philbin

[ bookreviews ]

"We'd all be human, if we could." Bertolt Brecht

A journalist covering the Iraq war commented on a late night talk show last night that America's situation in Iraq is hopeless because by now, he said, he doesn't know of a single Iraqi family who has not suffered some tragedy or horror as a result of the US invasion. We have lost something, he commented, in that transition from being "liberators" to becoming "occupiers", and we may never get it back. I don't doubt his insight about the widespread misery, just look at the Iraqi civilian casualty estimates - many as high as hundreds of thousands - but I question that more than a few of us understand what the reporter means by the mass personification of war, or the blame the Iraqi people harbor toward the US government as a result.

Very few of us know anything about what war does to perfectly innocent people trapped in its awful geometry. Civilians are always innocent bystanders, and always the most meaningful targets. They are all hearts and minds. The purpose of the bombing of the village of Guernica in northern Spain in 1937 was to undermine the morale of the Basque civilians and their insurgency against Franco. The purpose of the bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki in the summer of 1945 was to "break the will of the Japanese people" and to "save American lives".

In Vietnam "pacification" meant winning hearts and minds by bulldozing villages and moving populations into distant refugee camps. (Abraham Lincoln understood the impact of a burning cornfield on the civilian populace in the South during the American Civil War.) We experienced what it feels like to suffer war on the home front on September 11, 2001.
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By GimsGirl526 on April 17, 2008
Format: Paperback
Mikhail's books in an incredible collection of poetry. Her focus is mainly on the ideas of love and war and she addresses each wonderfully. The scope covers poetry written in and about her native Iraq as well as poems written here in the United States.

The title poem, 'The War Works Hard' is one of the most moving and poignant poems ever written about war.
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