The Iraqi Nights

The Iraqi Nights
Pub date 27th May 2014
Publisher (US) New Directions
International publishers Al Mada (Arabic)




Translated from the Arabic by Kareem James Abu-Zeid, The Iraqi Nights is the third collection by the acclaimed Iraqi poet Dunya Mikhail. Taking The One Thousand and One Nights as her central theme, Mikhail personifies the role of Scheherazade the storyteller, saving herself through her tales. In this haunting collection, the nights are endless, seemingly as dark and as endless as war. Yet the poet cannot stop dreaming of a future beyond the violence – of a place where “every moment / something ordinary / will happen under the sun.” Unlike Scheherazade, however, Mikhail is writing not to escape death, but to summon the strength to endure. Inhabiting the emotive spaces between Iraq and the U.S., Mikhail infuses those harsh realms with a deep poetic intimacy. The author’s vivid illustrations – inspired by Sumerian tablets – are threaded throughout this powerful book.


‘Here is the new Iraqi poetry.’ – Pierre Joris

‘Dunya Mikhail’s new poems reframe, in a contemporary woman’s voice, the great poet al-Sayab’s cry from the heart: ‘Iraq, Iraq, nothing but Iraq!’ Here, myth alleviates the exile’s longing, and exilic longing itself opens the po-et’s eyes to broad horizons.’ – Marilyn Hacker


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