Commemorate World Poetry Day with a reading and conversation between two award-winning contemporary poets whose lives and writings have been impacted by war.
Poetry and War: A Reading and Conversation
Dean F. Echenberg War Poetry Reading Series
Thursday, March 21, 7 p.m.
Dunya Mikhail was born in Iraq in 1965 and was forced to flee in the wake of the first Gulf War when her writings attracted the attention of the Iraqi authorities. She came to the United States in 1996, and is the author of two poetry collections, The Iraqi Nights (2014), and The War Works Hard (2005). Her most recent book, The Beekeeper: Rescuing the Stolen Women of Iraq (2018), was longlisted for the 2018 National Book Award for Literature in Translation.
Brian Turner served seven years in the US Army, including deployments in Iraq and Bosnia-Herzegovina. In his poetry and prose, Turner conveys both elegant and devastating portraits of what it means to be a soldier and a human being. Turner’s work has been published in Harper’s Magazine, National Geographic, the New York Times, and other journals. He is the author of two poetry collections, Here, Bullet (2005), and Phantom Noise (2010). His memoir, My Life and a Foreign Country was published in 2014.
Bag of Bones
By Dunya Mikhail
Translated by Elizabeth Winslow. New Directions (2004). Used with permission.
What good luck!
She has found his bones.
The skull is also in the bag
the bag in her hand
like all other bags
in all other trembling hands.
His bones, like thousands of bones
in the mass graveyard,
His skull, not like any other skull.
Two eyes or holes
with which he saw too much,
with which he listened to music
that told his own story,
that never knew clean air,
a mouth, open like a chasm,
it was not like that when he kissed her
not in this place
noisy with skulls and bones and dust
dug up with questions:
What does it mean to die all this death
in a place where the darkness plays all this silence?
What does it mean to meet your loved ones now
With all of these hollow places?
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?
To depart without death or birth certificates
because the dictator does not give receipts
when he takes your life.
The dictator has a skull too,
a huge one.
It solved by itself a math problem
that multiplied the one death by millions
to equal homeland.
The dictator is the director of a great tragedy.
he has an audience, too,
an audience that claps
until the bones begin to rattle –
the bones in the bags,
the full bag finally in her hand,
unlike her disappointed neighbor
who has not yet found her own.