Thursday, 19 August 2010
Dunya Mikhail: Words Without Borders
War is a recurring theme for poet Dunya Mikhail, an Iraqi exile who fled her country after being placed on Saddam Hussein's enemies list.
She wrote her first poems as a teenager in Baghdad, just as the slaughter of the Iran-Iraq War began. Subsequent wars offered more to write about.
For Mikhail, writing about war is not necessarily a way to heal wounds.
Born in Irak in 1965, Dunya Mikhail lived in Irak until the authorities considered her poetry to be not as innocent as it looked.
Dunya Mikhail’s poems differ from most war poems by the simple fact that she writes about war as a woman, mother, wife and friend, whereas most war poets are men. In the poem ‘Bags of bones’, she writes:
To give back to your mother
on the occasion of death
a handful of bones
she had given to you
on the occasion of birth?
In 2001, she was awarded the UN Human Rights Award for Freedom of Writing.
Her poems have been included in all sorts of anthologies, including World Beat − International Poetry Now. She has a Masters degree in Near Eastern Studies from Wayne State University in Michigan and a Bachelors degree in English Literature from the University of Baghdad.
She is currently working as an Arabic resource coordinator for Dearborn Public Schools, the town of the Ford factories, which has a large Arab (Iraqi) population.