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Poetry of Arab Women, The
A Contemporary Anthology
edited by Nathalie Handal

6” x 9” • 378 pages
ISBN 9781566563741 • paperback • $25.00

Winner of the PEN Oakland Literary Award 2002

"An astonishing, huge accomplishment! This anthology, beginning with Nathalie Handal's large and nuanced opening essay, demolishes stereotypes and allows the world to see and hear the powerful complexity and longing that these poets so memorably articulate. Here we may meet and marvel at 83 Arab women poets...from the visionary, elder Lebanese poet Etel Adnan, to the Lebanese American young poet, Dima Hilal...this is an incredible, international gathering of Arab women poets writing from the first quarter of the 20th century through now...."
-- June Jordan

More Reviews »

Hold my hand
and take me to the heart
for I prefer your home,
oh poetry.
                —excerpted from Small Sins by Maram Masri (Syria)

Arab women poets work within one of the oldest literary traditions in the world, yet they are virtually unknown in the West. In assembling this collection, Nathalie Handal has compiled an outstanding, important treasury that introduces the poetry of Arab women living all over the world, writing in Arabic, French, English, and other languages, and including some of the twentieth century’s most accomplished poets as well as today’s most exciting new voices.

Translated by distinguished translators and poets from around the world, The Poetry of Arab Women: A Contemporary Anthology showcases the work of 82 poets, among them Etel Adnan, Andrée Chedid, Salma Khadra Jayyusi, Naomi Shihab Nye, and Fadwa Tuqan. With an illuminating introduction by Handal, and extensive biographies of both poets and translators, The Poetry of Arab Women sheds brilliant light on a hitherto under-recognized group of talented poets.

Nathalie Handal is an award-winning poet, playwright, and writer. She has lived in Europe, the United States, the Caribbean, Latin America and the Arab world. Her work has appeared in numerous anthologies and magazines, and she has been featured on PBS The NewsHour with Jim Lehrer, NPR, as well as The New York Times, The San Francisco Chronicle, Reuters, Mail & Guardian, The Jordan Times and Il Piccolo. Handal has been involved either as a writer, director or producer in over twelve theatrical and/or film productions worldwide. She was recently the Honored Finalist for the 2009 Freedom Award.

Media Reviews

"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...out of a cacophony of voices, styles, and visions, deeper understanding of what it means to be an Arab and a poet...this anthology answers a long-felt need, and its arrival should be celebrated."
-- Booklist

"Eighty-two Arab women poets from all over the world are gathered in this highly charged, stunning anthology. Editor Nathalie Handal has done an amazing job of presenting a massive body of work by a group of women poets who are hardly known on the international poetry stage...In the male dominated, global poetry community this struggle is endless, but poets like Elmaz Abi-Nader, Safaa Fathy, Dunya Mikhail, Amal Moussa, and Fatma Kandil continue to write, sing, and disrupt the status quo. Handal has organized the work of 40 translators who present outstanding English versions of poetry by women from Algeria, Egypt, Iraq, Lebanon, Libya, Palestine and 10 other countries. This book is a rich magnet from cultures whose women are some of the leading artists of a vibrant world."
-- The Bloomsbury Review

"Stands out as an ambitious attempt to ensure a greater visibility not only for Arab women poets but also for other women poets who are of Arab origin. International in its scope, the anthology presents the works of 83 poets...Handal has sought and succeeded in demonstrating some of the shared experiences and concerns (private, national and universal) that mark their poetry...Handal deserves high praise for producing an anthology that mirrors faithfully Arab women's creative role throughout the last century. Highly recommended."
-- MultiCultural Review

"Handal assembles a catalog of the anomie of displacement that links the eighty-three poets selected for this collection. Her lengthy introduction, both factually impressive and emotionally heartwarming, awakens an excited interest for the poetry that follows. A haunting and pervasive commitment unites these poets...The poetic gift of every woman in the collection is, as always, unique and individual...
     A number of the poets, especially Arab Americans, write in English, but those needing translation have been blessed with carefully selected artists. The English versions have a grace and an integrity seldom found in translations."
-- Foreword

"This rich anthology goes a long way toward introducing contemporary Arab women poets, Arab-American women poets writing in English, and a few other women poets of Arab origin writing in French and Swedish. Its main virtue is that in one handsome volume it presents 209 poems of various lengths and styles by 83 women, some born in the Arab world and some elsewhere, but all rooted in Arab culture and experiencing the modern world as they carve their own identity.
     The editor, Nathalie Handal, a well-known Arab-American to be congratulated for compiling this useful volume...Only someone who knows the complex work of editing, making wise selections, seeking qualified translators...can fully appreciate Handal's efforts. In addition, she wrote a 62-page introduction providing a good historical overview of contemporary Arab women's poetry...on reading these poets from A to Z, one is impressed by the symphony of their voices, singular yet united...These voices are distinctive, articulate, authentic, and they dare to say what men poets sometimes dissimulate.
     Understandably not comprehensive, this anthology is however quite representative of the powerful poetry of Arab women and is a visible confirmation of its effective existence."
-- Aljadid Magazine

"An astonishing, huge accomplishment!  This anthology, beginning with Nathalie Handal's large and nuanced opening essay, demolishes stereotypes and allows the whole world to see and hear the powerful complexity and longing that these poets so memorably articulate.  Here we may meet and marvel at 83 Arab women poets... from the visionary, elder Lebanese poet Etel Adnan, to the Lebanese American young poet Dima Hilal... this is an incredible, international gathering of Arab women poets writing from the first quarter of the 20th century through now..."
-- June Jordan

"A landmark: the first survey of poetry entirely by Arab women with roots in nearly every Arab country...Strong introductory collection...While the 60-page introduction helps the reader with the inevitable difficulties of context that such a broad survey presents, there is sublime, occasionally fierce beauty in the poems themselves, which arrive with vitality, freshness and surprising power. The book argues well for the broader recognition of Arab poetry, by women or men, as a world literary force."
-- Aramco

"In this beautifully produced, elegant and thoroughly researched volume, Nathalie Handal has created a fresh image of the women of the Arab world...a great achievement, and long awaited....She is to be congratulated, further, for the detailed and informative preface, introduction and biographical notes on each poet, translator and reader. This anthology is a wonderful confirmation of the increasing interest in Arab literature by the West over the last few years....Altogether a great anthology that will become a well-worn bedside book as well as a valuable source of reference."
-- Banipal

"The poetic voices of Arab women...are beautifully captured in this timely volume edited by the Arab-American scholar and poet Nathalie Handal...the anthology succeeds eminently in giving the reader the opportunity to appreciate the new and powerful verse of contemporary Arab women...In her sixty-two page introduction, Handal gives a succinct account of the development of Arab poetry in general, then places the poetry of Arab women within it as one of rising importance...Handal is to be congratulated for having compiled this rich anthology and for making Arab women's poetry known and easily accessible. She is also to be thanked for her great efforts in making wise selections; for finding good translators, second translators, and helpful poets and critics as consultant readers...the poems...constitute a symphony of voices articulating Arab's women's hopes, feelings, and experiences so powerfully that a new, hitherto unknown image of Arab women impresses itself on the Western reader's mind...this poetry is authentic in its expression of Arab women's yearning for a place in the sun...This anthology makes visible their admirable struggle and their compelling verbal art."
-- World Literature Today

-- The News Circle (LA)

"Superb...Congratulations on a brilliant piece of work."
-- Peter Clark (British Council)

-- Orange County Library

"Stands out as a monument to Arab women as poets and wordsmiths evoking images and rhythms of language born of their experience, art and imagination. Of special note is the lengthy introduction, followed by representative selections from more than 80 Arab women of diverse backgrounds and life experiences."
-- Bookwatch

"Under the able editorship of Nathalie Handal, The Poetry Of Arab Women: A Contemporary Anthology stands as a monument to the manifold literary talent of Arab women as poets and wordsmiths evoking images and rhythms of language born of their experience, art, and imagination. Of special note is the lengthy introduction, followed by representative selections from more than 80 Arab women of diverse backgrounds and life experiences."
-- Midwest Book Review

"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."
-- Publishers Weekly

"An extremely thorough collection...Handal's introduction does an excellent job of setting the poems in context...The poets whose work appears here are largely excellent...I want to show this to everyone who regards Arabs as ‘those other people who aren't like us.'...These are impressive poems, brave poems, diverse poems. And this is an impressive, brave and diverse book. Although I found it painful sometimes, I recommend it highly. No: maybe because I found it painful sometimes. This is a book that people need to read."
-- Rachel Barenblatt, Pif Magazine

"In bringing together works by 83 Arab women poets, Handal nicely illustrates the variety and abundance of poetry written by Arab women. She demonstrates in the process that poetry-that most revered of Arab literary from-is not the exclusive domain of Arab men...This is no small accomplishment...the poems translated in this anthology read smoothly and clearly...The list of translators in this anthology, moreover, is as impressive as the list of poets....Handal provides a helpful biography of each [poet] at the end of the book. She also does the same for the translators, establishing each translator's credentials and literary accomplishments...there's plenty of information provided in this anthology to enable a wide variety of readers to enjoy the poems presented within it. Perhaps most helpful is the general introduction that Handal provides at the beginning of the book...the introduction as a whole successfully covers a great deal of ground in a clear and general manner. In this way, it helps make the poems in the anthology accessible to the widest possible audience.
     The poems themselves cover a wide range of concerns and interests. Most are socially engaged; they address problems of war, exile, and loss. Many are openly feminist...By bringing together so many poems in a single volume, Handal not only makes them available to a wide English-language readership, she also provides a strong testimony to the creativity, diversity, and abundance of poetic expression by Arab women.
     This book would serve well in an undergraduate classroom or as private reading. ...This anthology should also appeal to anyone interested in women's studies, the Middle East, or poetry in general. It is a welcome addition to the list of works by Arab women available in English."
-- The Review of the Association for Middle East Women's Studies

"This book deserves careful study for illuminating the current culture trends in the Arab world today."
-- The Muslim World Book Review

"Fascinating anthology of poetry by women of 10 Arab lineages, from Algeria to Palestine."
-- The Portland Alliance

"I cannot put [this book] down and wish to carry it with me everywhere, as a text for remembering how crucial poetry is for the survival of the soul...[T]here Arab women poets are makers of some of this world's finest poetry."
-- Joy Harjo

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