Dunya Mikhail

Dunya Mikhail was born in Baghdad, Iraq, and moved to the United States thirty years later in 1995. After graduating from the University of Baghdad, she worked as a journalist and translator for the Baghdad Observer. Facing censorship and interrogation, she left Iraq, first to Jordan and then to America, settling in Detroit. New Directions published her books The Beekeeper: Rescuing the Stolen Women of Iraq, The Iraqi Nights, Diary of A Wave Outside the Sea, and The War Works Hard—chosen as one the New York Public Library’s Books to Remember in 2005—as well as her edited volume, 15 Iraqi Poets. She has received a Guggenheim Fellowship, a Knights Foundation grant, a Kresge Fellowship, and the United Nations Human Rights Award for Freedom of Writing, and works as a special lecturer of Arabic at Oakland University in Michigan.

dunyamikhailpoet.com

In Her Feminine Sign

Poetry by Dunya Mikhail

In Her Feminine Sign follows on the heels of Dunya Mikhail’s devastating account of Daesh kidnappings and killings of Yazidi women in Iraq, The Beekeeper. It is the first book she has written in both Arabic and English, a process she talks about in her preface, saying “The poet is at home in both texts, yet she remains a stranger.” With a subtle simplicity and disquieting humor reminiscent of Wislawa Szymborska and an unadorned lyricism wholly her own, Mikhail shifts between her childhood in Baghdad and her present life in Detroit, between Ground Zero and a mass grave, between a game of chess and a flamingo.…
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The Beekeeper

Nonfiction by Dunya Mikhail

Translated by Max Weiss Dunya Mikhail

Since 2014, Daesh (ISIS) has been brutalizing the Yazidi people of northern Iraq: sowing destruction, killing those who won’t convert to Islam, and enslaving young girls and women. The Beekeeper, by the acclaimed poet and journalist Dunya Mikhail, tells the harrowing stories of several women who managed to escape the clutches of Daesh. Mikhail extensively interviews these women—who’ve lost their families and loved ones, who’ve been repeatedly sold, raped, psychologi- cally tortured, and forced to manufacture chemical weapons—and as their tales unfold, an unlikely hero emerges: a beekeeper, who uses his knowledge of the local terrain, along with a wide network of transporters, helpers, and former cigarette smugglers, to bring these women, one by one, through the war-torn landscapes of Iraq, Syria, and Turkey, back into safety.…
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The Iraqi Nights

Poetry by Dunya Mikhail

Translated from the Arabic by Kareem James Abu-Zeid

The Iraqi Nights is the third collection by the acclaimed Iraqi poet Dunya Mikhail. Taking The One Thousand and One Nights as her central theme, Mikhail personifies the role of Scheherazade the storyteller, saving herself through her tales. In this haunting collection, the nights are endless, seemingly as dark and as endless as war. Yet the poet cannot stop dreaming of a future beyond the violence — of a place where “every moment / something ordinary / will happen under the sun.…
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Diary Of A Wave Outside The Sea

Poetry by Dunya Mikhail

Translated by Elizabeth Winslow

When Part One of Dunya Mikhail’s Diary of a Wave Outside the Sea was published in Cairo, the newspaper Al-Ahram said: “In this remarkable and spellbinding text, one is reminded of ancient epics and mythology: of Gilgamesh’s quest to undo his tragic loss, of Sisyphus’s perseverance after being condemned to perpetually roll a boulder. The beautiful gush of words depicting a merciless and indifferent world reasserts almost existentially that to survive in an alienating universe there is no alternative but to (re)create incessantly.…
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The War Works Hard

Poetry by Dunya Mikhail

Translated by Elizabeth Winslow

“Yesterday I lost a country,” Dunya Mikhail writes in The War Works Hard, a subversive, sobering work by an exiled Iraqi poet, and her first collection to appear in English. Amidst the ongoing atrocities in Iraq, after decades of wars and hundreds of thousands of deaths, here is an important new voice that rescues the human spirit from the ruins. Embracing literary traditions from ancient Mesopotamian mythology to Biblical and Koranic parables, and to Western modernism, Mikhail’s poetic vision transcends cultural and linguistic boundaries with liberating compassion.…
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Fifteen Iraqi Poets

Poetry

Edited by Dunya Mikhail

Fifteen Iraqi Poets compiles fifteen poems, each written by a prominent twentieth century Iraqi poet. Selected, with commentary, by the award-winning Iraqi-American poet Dunya Mikhail, this little anthology is the perfect introduction to a glorious literature that traces its roots back to ancient Sumer — a poetry written in a state of continuous wars and massacres, where laments often open with a plea to the destroyed homeland: “O Iraq.”
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Throughout this newest collection, Dunya Mikhail writes poems of cities, friends, grandmothers, goddesses, of girls who might ‘outgrow / their dresses / while on the road’ to captivity. The poems offer a chronicle of internal life in the landscapes of exile and remembered homeland, always foregrounding the experiences of women. Fossils are reanimated and birds flit between the pages, answering the silences and laments of the various speakers. Beyond the reductive trope of ‘witness’ often inaccurately assigned to writers whose lives unfold in times of war, Mikhail’s poems embody the world that necessitates her work, seamlessly navigating eras and continents. These are not poems about war or exile or trauma. They are poems that emanate from the women who live them, those who survive and those who are remembered.
World Literature Today
In Her Feminine Sign is a collection of limpid meditations which demand that we pause as we read. Their stillness and clarity is no miniaturised charm. Instead it’s an utterly articulate clear-sightedness that lets each one deliver a shock. The tragedies of recent and not so recent Iraqi history and the traditions of Arabic verse are the steely structures that underpin her profoundly thought-through work of witness.
The Guardian
With plain-spoken clarity, these poems navigate the meaning of home. ‘How many departures can you put up with?’ one asks.
The New York Times “New & Noteworthy”
Mikhail sings of the longing and undoing of exile, mourns the loss of her language, describes its gendering and the re-engineering on her tongue, a poet’s most important muscle. Delicate, beautiful, day-stopping.
—John Freeman, LitHub
Here is the new Iraqi poetry.
—Pierre Joris
Mikhail’s style maintains an impressive fragility and delicacy of image that touches the reader’s heart…
American Poetry Review
Dunya Mikhail is a woman who speaks like the disillusioned goddesses of Babylon.
—Etel Adnan
The dead have words, because Mikhail has written them.
—Barbara Berman, The Rumpus
Haunting and captivating—a powerful portrait of courage.
Elle UK
The Beekeeper is a brutally important, electrifying, and lyrical true story.
—Paige Van De Winkle, Foreword Reviews
Here is the new Iraqi poetry.
—Pierre Joris
The poems in this extraordinary collection sway back and forth between America (as a new home) and Baghdad (as a birthplace), between the artifacts of ancient Sumerian civilization and the walls of our modern times. There is no trace of nostalgia in Mikhail’s poetry, though her words feel poignantly real and rare, as if creating a museum of memories.
—Hatem al-Sager, Al-Ittihad
Somewhere between a cutting-edge film and a 1002nd night of storytelling, interspersed with drawings and calligraphy, Dunya Mikhail’s new poems reframe, in a contemporary woman’s voice, the great poet al-Sayab’s cry from the heart: ‘Iraq, Iraq, nothing but Iraq!’ Here, myth alleviates the exile’s longing, and exilic longin itself opens the poet’s eyes to broad horizons.
—Marilyn Hacker
Mikhail’s style maintains an impressive fragility and delicacy of image that touches the reader’s heart…
American Poetry Review
Here is the new Iraqi poetry: a poetry of urgency that has no time for the traditional (in Arab poetry) flowers of rhetoric; terse, unadorned, stripped & ironic, Dunya Mikhail’s lines move at the speed of events–be it war or love. Here the fierceness of the public life meshes with the hard-won tenderness of the private, in a passionate dialectic that makes her voice the inescapable voice of Arab poetry today.
—Pierre Joris
Mikhail’s style maintains an impressive fragility and delicacy of image that touches the reader’s heart…
American Poetry Review
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