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Sinan Antoon

Visiting Poet

Sinan Antoon

Sinan Antoon is a poet, novelist, filmmaker and translator. He studied English literature at Baghdad University before coming to the United States after the 1991 Gulf War. He did his graduate studies at Georgetown and at Harvard where he is a PhD candidate in Arabic literature. His poems and articles (in Arabic and English) have appeared in The Nationan-Naharas-SafirMasharefal-AdabMiddle East Reportal-Ahram Weekly and Banipal. He has published a collection of poems entitled Mawshur Muballal bil-Huroob (A Prism; Wet with Wars, Mirit Books, Cairo) and a novel I`jam (Diacritics) (Dar al-Adab, Beirut), and a selection of his work appears in the anthology Iraqi Poetry Today.

Antoon returned to Iraq in 2003 as a member of InCounter Productions to film a documentary about the lives of Iraqis in a post-Saddam occupied Iraq. He is a senior editor with the Arab Studies Journal, a member of Pen America and a contributing editor to Banipal. His translations of modern Arabic poetry have appeared in two anthologies of Mahmud Darwish’s poetry (The Adam of Two Edens) and (Unfortunately It Was Paradise) published by Syracuse and Berkeley and in various journals including Banipal and The Nation. A recipient of a Mellon Doctoral Dissertation Grant (2002), Antoon currently teaches Arabic and Arabic literature at Dartmouth College and is finishing his dissertation, “The Poetics of the Obscene,” on the 4th/10th century poet Ibn al-Hajjaj.

Select Poems

when i was torn by war

i took a brush

immersed in death

and drew a window

on war’s wall

i opened it

searching for



i saw another war

and a mother

weaving a shroud

for the dead man

still in her womb

from IRAQI POETRY TODAY (Zephyr Press, 2003) Translated from the Arabic by the poet

this is the chapter of


this is our oasis

an angle where wars intersect

tyrants accumulate around our eyes

and in the shackle’s verandah

there is enough space for


let us applaud

another evening climbs

the city’s candles

technological hoofs crush the night

a people is being slaughtered across short waves:

but local radio vomits raw statements

and urges us to


with a skeleton of a burning umbrella

we receive this rain

a god sleeps on our flag

but the horizon is prophetless

maybe they will come if we


let us applaud

we will baptize our infants with smoke

plough their tongues

with flagrant war songs

teach them the bray of slogans

and leave them beside burning nipples

in an imminent wreckage

and applaud

before we weave an autumn for tyrants

we must cross this galaxy of barbed wires

and keep on repeating


[Baghdad, March 1991]

from IRAQI POETRY TODAY (Zephyr Press, 2003) Translated from the Arabic by the poet

do you know

that your mother’s nipples

are dry bones?

that her breasts

are bursting

with depleted uranium?

do you know

that the womb’s window


a confiscated land?

do you know

that your tomorrow

has no tomorrow?

that your blood

is the ink

of new maps?

do you know

that your mother is weaving

the slowness of her moments

into an elegy?

And she is already

mourning you?

don’t be shy!

your funeral is over

the tears are dry

everyone’s gone

come forward!

it’s only a short way

don’t be late

your grave is looking

at its watch!

don’t be afraid!

We’ll arrange your bones

which ever way you want

and leave your skull

like a flower

on top

come forward!

your many friends await

there are more every day

. . .

your ghosts

will play together

come on!

New York, December 2002

Translated from the Iraqi by the poet

About Sinan

Poetry Center Reading Dates: April 2005