The Iraqi Nights is the third collection by the acclaimed Iraqi-American poet Dunya Mikhail. Inspired in the rich tradition of The Arabian Nights, Mikhail resurrects the voice of Scheherazade, personifying the storyteller who evades death through the intrigue of endless tales. Although the pervasive pain of war on the street, home, and soul in this collection threaten grief and paralysis, the poet continuously weaves in visions of a future outside of violence, of a place where “every moment / something ordinary / will happen under the sun.” This summoned strength draws poet and reader out of the facelessness of unending nights and into a bright familiarity with movement, as experienced through flowing thought and image. The author’s imagination is brought to life with her vivid illustrations – inspired by Sumerian tablets – threaded with handwritten Arabic alongside poetic text. Inhabiting the emotive spaces between Iraq and the U.S., Mikhail bathes those dark realms with the deep light of poetic intimacy within this powerful book.
Dunya Mikhail (b. 1965) is an Iraqi-American poet who has been living and writing in the United States since the mid-1990s. She left Iraq for Michigan when, while working as a journalist for the Baghdad Observer, her work was found to be subversive by Iraqi authorities. Her first book in English, The War Works Hard (New Directions, 2005) was shortlisted for the Griffin Prize and was named one of the “Twenty-Five Books to Remember from 2005” by the New York Public Library. Her second collection, Diary of A Wave Outside the Sea (ND, 2009) won the 2010 Arab American Book Award for poetry. In 2001, she was awarded the United Nations Human Rights Award for Freedom of Writing. In 2013, she was named a Kresge fellow for literary arts. Mikhail currently lives in Michigan and works as an Arabic instructor for Oakland University.
This stirring new collection of word and image, translated by Kareem James Abu-Zeid is forthcoming from New Directions this May.