Al-Mutanabbi Street Starts Here: Poets and Writers Respond to the March 5th, 2007, Bombing of Baghdad's "Street of the Booksellers"
Editors: Beau Beausoleil and Deema Shehabi
Publisher: PM Press
Published June 2012
Size: 9 by 6
Page count: 300 Pages
Subjects: Cultureal Studies/Current Events/Poetry
On March 5th, 2007, a car bomb was exploded on al-Mutanabbi Street in Baghdad. More than thirty people were killed and more than one hundred were wounded. This locale is the historic center of Baghdad bookselling, a winding street filled with bookstores and outdoor book stalls. Named after the famed 10th century classical Arab poet al-Mutanabbi, it has been the heart and soul of the Baghdad literary and intellectual community. This anthology begins with a historical introduction to al-Mutanabbi Street and includes the writing of Iraqis as well as a wide swath of international poets and writers who were outraged by this attack.
This book seeks to show where al-Mutanabbi Street starts in all of us: personally, in our communities, and in our nations. It seeks to show the commonality between this small street in Baghdad and our own cultural centers, and why this attack was an attack on us all. This anthology sees al-Mutanabbi Street as a place for the free exchange of ideas; a place that has long offered its sanctuary to the complete spectrum of Iraqi voices. This is where the roots of democracy (in the best sense of that word) took hold many hundreds of years ago. This anthology looks toward al-Mutanabbi Street as an affirmation of all that we hope for in a more just society.
Contributors include: Beau Beausoleil, Musa al-Musawi, Anthony Shadid, Mousa al-Naseri, Naomi Shihab Nye, Deena Metzger, Sam Hamod, Lutfiya Al-Dulaimi, Zaid Shlah, Persis Karim, Ayub Nuri, Marian Haddad, Sarah Browning, Eileen Grace O’Malley Callahan, Roger Sederat, Elline Lipkin, Esther Kamkar, Robert Perry, Gloria Collins, Brian Turner, Gloria Frym, Owen Hill, Abd al-Rahim, Salih al-Rahim, Yassin “The Narcicyst” Alsalman, Jose Luis Gutierrez, Sargon Boulus, Peter Money, Sinan Antoon, Muhammad al-Hamrani, Livia Soto, Janet Sternburg, Sam Hamill, Salah Al-Hamdani, Gail Sher, Dunya Mikhail, Irada Al Jabbouri, Dilara Cirit, Niamh MacFionnlaoich, Erica Goss, Daisy Zamora, George Evans, Steve Dickison, Maysoon Pachachi, Summer Brenner, Jen Hofer, Rijin Sahakian, Badr Shakir al-Sayyab, Jane Hirshfield, Jack Marshall, Susan Moon, Diana di Prima, Evelyn So, Nahrain Al-Mousawi, Ko Un, Joe Lamb, Katrina Rodabaugh, Mohammed Hayawi, Nazik Al-Malaika, Raya Asee, Gazar Hantoosh, Mark Abley, Majid Naficy, Lewis Buzbee, Ibn al-Utri, Thomas Christensen, Amy Gerstler, Genny Lim, Saadi Youssef, Judith Lyn Suttton, Josh Kun, Dana Teen Lomax, Etel Adnan, Bushra Al-Bustani, Marilyn Hacker, Richard Harrison, Fady Joudah, Philip Metres, Hayan Charara, Annie Finch, Kazim Ali, Deema K. Shehabi, Kenneth Wong, Elmaz Abinader, Habib Tengour, Khaled Mattawa, Rachida Madani, Amina Said, Alise Alousi, Sita Carboni, Fran Bourassa, Jabez W. Churchill, Daniela Elza, Linda Norton, Fred Norman, Bonnie Nish, Janet Rodney, Adrienne Rich, Cornelius Eady, Julie Bruck, Kwame Dawes, Ralph Angel, B.H. Fairchild, Terese Svoboda, Mahmoud Darwish, Amir el-Chidiac, Aram Saroyan, Sholeh Wolpe, Nathalie Handal, Azar Nafisi, Dima Hilal, Tony Kranz, Jordan Elgrably, devorah major, Suzy Malcolm, Ibrahim Nasrallah, Rick London, Sarah Menefee, Roberto Harrison, Fadhil Al-Azzawi, Amaranth Borsuk, Lamees Al-Ethari, Shayma’ al-Saqr, and Jim Natal.
**Winner of Northern California Book Award's NCBR Recognition Award**
"This anthology celebrates the exquisite relationship between the book and the reader, humanity and culture, writing and life and love. It is a tribute to a street that grows into a large and archetypal symbol and spatial metaphor for books."
—Muhsin al-Musawi, professor of Arabic and Comparative Studies at Columbia University and editor of the Journal of Arabic Literature
"The collection of materials in this anthology is astounding and harrowing. Beausoleil and Shehabi have put together a book that will be adored by lovers of poetry, essays, journalism, and testimony. It will also be required reading for anyone interested in social justice."
—Steven Salaita, associate professor of English, Virginia Tech University
"Al-Mutanabbi Street Starts Here has brought together a stellar group of authors to write about a time and place: the destruction of Baghdad's famed al-Mutanabbi Street, when on March 5, 2007, the cultural spaces of bookstores, libraries, and cafes frequented for centuries by the Iraqi literary community were bombed. This is a wonderful and exceptionally moving anthology and a compelling collection of poetic and historical merit."
—Susan Slyomovics, professor of anthropology and Near Eastern languages, UCLA
"Propaganda reigns when there are no natural alliances of self-defense, when image-makers — poets, novelists, journalists, filmmakers, photographers, and artists—have no personal relationships with their counterparts across zones of conflict. Al-Mutanabbi Street Starts Here steps directly into this vacuum, holding the mirror of resistance directly to our acquiescent eyes, reminding us that before the invasion of Iraq there were sanctions, that before the sanctions there was Saddam Hussein, part of an elaborate web of U.S. supported and inspired totalitarianism that has kept the peoples of the Middle East in a stranglehold for a good part of the 20th century. This extraordinary collection asks us to account for our lack of resistance, and to begin learning just what it might mean to resist."
—Ammiel Alcalay, chair of Classical, Middle Eastern and Asian Languages and Cultures at Queens College
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What Others are Saying
Al-Mutanabbi Street Starts Here: A Review
by Issa J. Boullata
World Literature Today
The anthology begins with an impressive five-page essay by Anthony Shadid, originally published in the Washington Post on March 12, 2007. Born in Oklahoma City in 1968, Shadid died on February 16, 2012, while covering the current Syrian revolution. His essay is a heartfelt story of Mohammed Hayawi, an Iraqi bookseller who died on Al-Mutanabbi Street and whom he knew while he was the Baghdad bureau chief of the newspaper. A similar personal essay is by Maysoon Pachachi, a London-based filmmaker of Iraqi origin, who reminisces about a 2004 visit to Baghdad for the first time in thirty-five years and remembers Al-Mutanabbi Street and Shabandar Café and other experiences. She ends by saying, “And sometimes it seems like the rhythm of Iraqi history is one of destruction, lament, and repair.” In fact, Al-Mutanabbi Street has reopened, and Shabandar Café has been renovated, although its owner lost many family members in the murderous blast.
Literary project honors Baghdad's devastated bookselling districte
by Ellie Violet Bramley
The Guardian UK
January 21st, 2014
"A selection of these artist's books and the broadsides is currently on display at London's Mosaic Rooms, and on 22 January there will be a panel event at which two contributing artists, Catherine Cartwright and Mona Kriegler, along with guest speaker Dr Safaa Sangour Al-Salih, will discuss the project's significance, and the process of responding to and creating artwork for such a venture."Read more
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Al-Mutanabbi Street Starts Here
by Asmaa Abdallah
June 23rd, 2013
Of course this artistic project, large and far-reaching as it is, has not stopped the bombings and killings in Iraq: over 700 people lost their lives there last April, making it the deadliest month over the last five years.The contributors, whether publishers, writers or book artists, have all expressed their unequivocal support and solidarity with the Iraqi community. Their words and images are powerful, moving and have gone from one place to the next to be heard and seen, and although they cannot stop the bullets and bombs, they can do a lot more, according to contributor Fred Norman whose bio describes him as hoping “that he might someday write the words that will make the human beast humane.”