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Secrets of the Clay

Dunya Mikhail

Categories: 21st Century, American, Ancient, Arabic, BAME, Women
Imprint: Carcanet Poetry
Publisher: Carcanet Press
Available as:
Paperback (128 pages)
(Due Sep 2024)
£12.99 £11.69
  • Description
  • Author
  • Awards
  • Reviews
  • Tablets: Secrets of the Clay transforms the world’s first letter symbols, cut onto clay tablets, into matters of our modern everyday life. The poems are accompanied by drawings inspired by the ancient Sumerian images. These short poems, which can be read as Iraqi haiku, invoke an urgent wisdom beyond their original borders. In her author’s note, Dunya Mikhail writes: ‘At this moment, I am writing to you using tablets such as the computer or iPad or phone. If I were living in the time before writing, I would express my thoughts to you using clay tablets. I would draw my ideas the way my Sumerian ancestors used to do thousands of years ago. In fact, that’s exactly what I tried to do in this book. I imagined myself living in that time with no language, and yet had to express my poems through drawing. Not knowing how to draw was good for me because these drawings are supposed to be primitive and thus in harmony with the spirit of those simple signs in their first communication with the world. After all, those ancestors of mine were not all of them artists. I like to think that they were ordinary people who revealed themselves through symbols they inscribed on caves and clay tablets. I am fascinated by those codes because they were poetical, although unintentionally so.’
    Dunya Mikhail is an Iraqi American poet and writer. She is a laureate of the UNESCO Sharja Prize for Arab Culture and has received fellowships from the United States Artists, the Guggenheim, and Kresge. The United Nations granted her Human Rights Watch Award for freedom of writing and Arab America listed ... read more
    Awards won by Dunya Mikhail Winner, 2019 A Poetry Book Society Autumn Wild Card Selection
    (In Her Feminine Sign)
    Short-listed, 2005  Griffin International Poetry Prize
    (The War Works Hard)
    Winner, 2004 Pen Translation Fund Award
    (The War Works Hard)
    Praise for Dunya Mikhail 'Mikhail explores processes and their accoutrements, their spin-offs and accessories... There are several small jewel like pieces that are truly luminous'
    Ian Pople, The Manchester Review
    'a collection of limpid meditations which demand that we pause as we read [...] profoundly thought-through work'

    Fiona Sampson, Guardian Poetry Review Roundup

    'In Her Feminine Sign is a wise and innovative set of poems which ask us to consider not only what it means to be living away from home, but how home can shift depending on a number of variables.'

    Anthony Anaxagorou, PBS Autumn Bulletin 

    'Here is the new Iraqi poetry: terse, unadorned, stripped and ironic...her voice is the inescapable voice of Arab poetry today.'
    Pierre Joris
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