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The War Works Hard

Dunya Mikhail

Cover Picture of The War Works Hard
RRP: GBP 9.95
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ISBN: 978 1 857548 69 3
Categories: 20th Century, 21st Century, Arabic, Black and Asian, War writings, Women
Imprint: Carcanet Poetry
Published: July 2006
216 x 135 x 6 mm
96 pages
Publisher: Carcanet Press
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  • 'How magnificent the war is!
    How eager
    and efficient!
    Early in the morning,
    it wakes up the sirens
    and dispatches ambulances
    to various places,
    swings corpses through the air,
    rolls stretchers to the wounded,
    summons rain
    from the eyes of mothers,
    digs into the earth
    dislodging many things
    from under the ruins...
    ...The war works with unparalleled diligence!
    Yet no one gives it
    a word of praise.'

    from 'The War Works Hard'
    "Yesterday I lost a country," Dunya Mikhail writes in The War Works Hard, a subversive, sobering work by an exiled Iraqi poet, and her first collection to appear in English. Compassionate, engaged and direct, Mikhail's is a voice that transcends boundaries, and one that has rarely seemed more necessary.

    Dunya Mikhail writes an Arabic poetry for the twenty-first century - urgent and painful, composed our of successive experiences of violence and exile. She remakes the traditional forms and imagery of Arabic poetry to give voice to women's experience of war, to the experiences of lovers, children and mothers, those whose vulnerability is also the tenacious humanity that gives hope of survival and new beginnings.

    An Iraqi, now living in the United States, Mikhail writes and speaks in Arabic, Arameic and English. Her literary inheritance embraces ancient myths, the sacred books of Christianity and Islam, and Western modernism, and she inhabits cultures that range from deep-rooted traditions to the brutalities of modern states. Mikhail has collaborated closely with the translator Elizabeth Winslow in publishing this collection.

    Table of Contents

    Introduction by Saadi Simawe


    Bag of Bones


    The War Works Hard

    The Game

    The Prisoner

    A Drop of Water


    An Urgent Call

    Non-Military Statements

    Between Two Wars

    Tough Rose

    The Jewel

    A Voice

    Travel Agency


    Santa Claus


    Crashed Acts


    To Any Other Place

    I Was In A Hurry


    Silent Movie

    Laheeb and the City

    The Rocking Chair


    The Foreigner

    Five Minutes


    The Cup

    The Resonance

    The Artist Child

    The Departure of Friends

    A Tombstone

    The Theory of Absence

    Nothing Here is Enough

    What's New?

    The Pomegranate Seeds

    With One Look From Him

    An Orange


    Behind the Glass

    The Nun

    The New Year

    Transformations of the Child and the Moon

    The Chaldean's Ruins

    The Shadow of a Tear



    Dunya Mikhail was born in 1965 and educated at Baghdad University. She worked as Literary Editor for The Baghdad Observer . Facing increasing harassment from the authorities for her writings, Mikhail left her native Iraq in the 1990s, travelling first to Jordan, and then the US, where she studied Near Eastern ... read more
    Awards won by Dunya Mikhail Short-listed, 2005  Griffin International Poetry Prize
    (The War Works Hard)
    Winner, 2004 Pen Translation Fund Award
    (The War Works Hard)
    'Here is the new Iraqi poetry: terse, unadorned, stripped and ironic...her voice is the inescapable voice of Arab poetry today.'
    Pierre Joris
    Praise for Dunya Mikhail 'Everything about this is celebration and welcome: context, vision, information, critical perspective...'
    Kamau Brathwaite
    'Dunya Mikhail is a woman who speaks like the disillusioned goddesses of Babylon. Blunt as well as subtle, she makes of war a distinct entity, thus turning it into a myth. To her own question: 'What does it mean to die all this death?', her poems answer that it means to reveal the only redeeming power that we have: the existence of love.'
    Etel Adnan
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