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Dunya Mikhail is the PBS Autumn Wild Card!

Thursday, 30 May 2019

Cover image of In Her Feminine Sign by Dunya Mikhail We're really pleased to share the news that Dunya Mikhail's In Her Feminine Sign has been chosen by the Poetry Book Society as their Wild Card in the Autumn 2019 Selections! Congratulations, Dunya! And well done to all the poets and publishers who made the list. 

See the full list of selections at the Poetry Book Society's website here


At the heart of Dunya Mikhail’s luminous new collection of poems, her fourth in English, is the Arabic suffix ta-marbuta, “the tied circle,” a circle with two dots above it that determines a feminine word, or sign. This tied circle transforms into the moon, a stone that binds friendship, birdsong over ruins, three kidnapped women, and a hymn to Nisaba, the goddess of writing. A section of “Iraqi haiku” unfold like shimmering translations of carved Sumerian symbols on clay tablets. These tablets later transform into the digital tablets we carry to Mars. In another poem, Mikhail ponders the Sumerian word for “freedom,” Ama-ar-gi, “what seeps out / from the dead into our dreams.”


Photo of Dunya Mikhail - image credit: Nina Subin Born in Iraq in 1965, Dunya Mikhail worked as a journalist for the Baghdad Observer. Facing increasing threats from the Iraqi authorities, she fled first to Jordan, then to the United States. In 2001, she was awarded the UN Human Rights Award for Freedom of Writing. Mikhail’s first book in English, the poetry collection The War Works Hard (Carcanet, 2006), translated by Elizabeth Winslow, won a 2004 Pen Translation Fund Award. It was also shortlisted for the Griffin Prize and named one of the twenty-five books to remember by the New York Public Library in 2005. Diary of A Wave Outside the Sea (2009) won the 2010 Arab American Book Award for poetry. Her third collection, The Iraqi Nights, translated by Kareem James Abu-Zeid, was published in 2014. In 2018, she was awarded a Guggenheim Fellowship and her non-fiction debut, The Beekeeper of Sinjar, co-translated with Max Weiss, was published to great acclaim, including being longlisted for the inaugural National Book Award for Translated Literature. She currently lives in Michigan and works as an Arabic special lecturer in Oakland University.


Author photo by Nina Subin







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