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Sunday, January 22, 2017

Fwd: Monday's poet is Zeina Hashem Beck

The Poetry Show -- Jan 23, 2017 on EPIC Radio
7:30-9:00 AM EST
With Janet Harrison and John Case

Our call in line is: 304-885-0708

Today's Featured Poet is Zeina Hashem Beck

Zeina Hashem Beck was born in Tripoli, Lebanon, and attended American University in Beirut, from which she received her Bachelor and Master of Arts degrees. As an adolescent she wrote poetry in French and Arabic, but has written in English since attending University, although she is experimenting with some Arabic verse. Her English poems incorporate some French and Arabic words. She has published two award-winning chapbooks and one full length poetry collection: There Was and How Much There Was (Smith/Doorstop, 2016) was a Laureate's Choice chapbook, chosen by Carol Ann Duffy; 3arabi Song (Rattle, 2016) was chosen from over 1700 entries for the Rattle chapbook prize; and To Live in Autumn (Backwters Press, 2013), a book that took seven years to complete, won the 2013 Backwater Prize. A second full length collection, Louder than Hearts, won the 2016 May Sarton New Hampshire Poetry Prize and is forthcoming in April 2017. Currently, Zeina Hashem Beck lives in Dubai with her husband and two children. For further information, see her website,

This week's featured poem is a ghazal, a form that has roots in 7th century Arabia, but was popularized in 13th and 14th century Persia by poets Rumi and Hafiz. It is written in couplets, with each thematically independent couplet ending in the same word. Published in 3arabi Song (Rattle, 2016), "Ghazal: This Hijra" sensitively addresses issues of war and exile. The poet's note to this poem is as follows: "Hijra literally translates as 'migration' and is used here to mean 'displacement.' In an Islamic context, Hijra is a reference to the journey the prophet Mohammad made from Mecca to Medina, because he was being persecuted. | The poem is dedicated to thousands of Yazidis and Christians who fled their Iraqi hometowns of Sinjar and Mosul in the summer of 2014, in fear of being killed by ISIS. | the expression 'Ya Sayyab' is a reference to Badr Shakir Al-Sayyab, Iraqi poet, and his famous poem, 'Rain Song.'" 

             for Mosul and Sinjar, 2014

The little girls have eyes that will forever weave this hirja
On mountains and in villages, people eat their homes and leave—this, hirja

My father once told me about a spider that spun a web across a cave
where the Prophet hid. He said, "The spider saved him. Believe this hirja."

Take the blankets and put the children in the trunk of the Toyota. 
Tell them about the kites they will fly to cleave this hirja

I have been sold twenty-two times. Every time I desert my body
I remind myself the Tigris and Euphrates will meet to grieve this hirja

In this heat, we imagine angels with airplane wings, and water.
We call, "Ya Sayyab! Sing us the song of rain, of this eve, this hirja

The old man has stayed in his house. He walks from room to room, names
kettle, chair, mattress. He knows they're coming, but he can't conceive this: hirja

The spider's spun a pattern that resembles a fire escape. "Run," it says, "zig zag
your way through. No web big enough here, no cave to deceive. This—hirja. 

Baba insisted on my Arabic name. People suggested, "More modern, more
Western." But he said, "This, too, is parting (I'm Mustafa, not Steve). This, hirja." 

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