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The War Works Hard

Dunya Mikhail

Cover Picture of The War Works Hard
10% off
Categories: 20th Century, 21st Century, Arabic, BAME, War writings, Women
Imprint: Carcanet Poetry
Publisher: Carcanet Press
Available as:
Paperback (96 pages)
(Pub. Jul 2006)
£9.95 £8.96
  • Description
  • Excerpt
  • Author
  • Contents
  • Awards
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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 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)
    '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 '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 

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