Beau Beausoleil — founder of the “Al-Mutanabbi Street Starts Here” project — has brought together 25 readings in Scotland, the US, Canada, Egypt, and England to mark the seventh anniversary of the bombing of Baghdad’s central bookselling street:
At a recent talk, an audience-member asked Beausoleil “Why al-Mutanabbi Street? Why not mark the invasion, or the Gulf War?” Fellow panel member Ammiel Alcalay continued the question: Why not the blockade, earlier imperial maneuverings, and so on?
Beausoleil later responded to the same question:
The emotional enormity of the invasion and occupation of Iraq is enough to completely freeze one up. Where does one start? How do you organize a list of horrible events so that they are addressed but not compared and contrasted as to their importance?
I feel one must simply pick something. You must find a moment that you can step into, one that resonates with who you are in your everyday life. That moment for me was the bombing of al-Mutanabbi Street because, as a bookseller and poet, I knew that al-Mutanabbi Street would be where my used bookshop would be, and that as a poet this would be my cultural community that was attacked.
Looking closely at any such small but devastating moment — in the context of a brutal occupation that lasted more than eight years — reveals the layers of the war as it was laid down year after year. The entire war is in this one day, in both its complexity and clarity. Positioning the project as ‘anti-war’ would, I feel, make it too easy to dismiss and brush aside.
Imperialism is wide and sweeping but responses need to be focused and direct.
Seven years on, Beausoleil — and many others around the world — haven’t forgotten what happened on al-Mutanabbi Street and the booksellers who continue to live there. Readings will be held at:
1. The Collins Memorial Library, the University of Puget Sound, Tacoma, Washington, USA. March 7, at 12 p.m.
2. Busboys and Poets Cafe, 14th and V Streets, Washington, D.C., USA. March 5th, 6pm – 8:30pm.
3. Bella Banquet Hall, 4100 E. 14 Mile Road, Warren, Michigan, USA. March 5th, 7-9pm.
4. Double Elephant Print Workshop, Lower Ground Floor, 5. St. Exeter Phoenix, Bradninch Place, Gandy Street, Exeter, EX4 3LS, England. March 5, 6:30 – 8pm.
5. Eastern Edge Gallery (Harbour Drive at Baird’s Cove) St. John’s, New Foundland and Labrador, Canada. March 5, 7-9 pm.
6. Herron Art Library, Herron School of Art and Design, IUPUI, Indianapolis, Indiana, USA. Artist Book Alcove. March 5, 4-6pm.
7. OC4 and the Print Centre (relief print area) at UWE Bristol, Bower Ashton Campus, Kennel Lodge Road, Bristol BS3 2JT, England. 5th March from 11am – 4pm.
8. UCL Archaeology Lecture Theatre, 31-34 Gordon Square, WC1H OPY London, England. March 5, 6:30
9. Guarini Library, , 2039 Kennedy Blvd. Jersey City, New Jersey, USA. March 4th, 7-9pm.
10. Pages Books on Kensington, 1135 Kensington Road NW, Calgary, Alberta, Canada. March 5th 7:30-9:30pm.
11. Multnomah Friends Meeting House, 4312 SE Stark Street, Portland, Oregon, USA. March 5, 7-9pm.
12. The Great Overland Book Company, 345 Judah Street (at ninth avenue) San Francisco, USA. March 5, 7:30 – 9 pm.
13. School of Art and Design, Somerset College, Wellington Road, Taunton TA1 5AX, England. March 5th, 8-9pm.
14. The Southern Letterpress, 417 Main Ave. Northport, Alabama, USA. March 6, 5 – 8pm. (Letterpress demonstration from 5-8pm, reading begins at 6pm).
15. Cambridge, Arts Council, 344 Broadway (4th floor), Cambridge, Mass, USA. March 5, 6-8pm,
16. The Institute Library, 847 Chapel Street, New Haven CT, USA. March 1, 12pm – 2pm. (This will be held in conjunction with the opening of their al-Mutanabbi exhibit.)
17. San Francisco Art Institute Lecture Hall, 800 Chestnut San Francisco, CA, USA. March 6th, 7-9pm.
18. The American University in Cairo, Egypt. This reading and keynote address by Sinan Antoon is in conjunction with the opening of the al-Mutanabbi project exhibit at AUC, held in theNadia Niazi Mostafa Room (third floor) Rare Books & Special Collections Library, American University in Cairo, New Cairo Campus. March 6th, 1pm – 3pm.
19. Meeting Room, The Arab British Centre, 1 Gough Square, London EC4A 3DE, England. 5 March, 2:30-4:30 p.m.
20. Pomegranate Gallery, 137 Greene St. NYC, NY, USA. March 5th, 6:30 – 8 p.m.
21. Atelier 6000 389 SW Scalehouse Ct. #120 – Bend, Oregon, USA. March 6, 4:30 – 7 pm.
22. Word Power Books, 43-45 West Nicolson Street, Edinburgh EH8 9DB, Scotland. March 5th, 6-8pm.
23. The Cafe at Gateshead Old Town Hall, West Street,Tyne & Wear NE8 1HE, England. March 3rd, 7-9pm.
24. Eat My Words Bookstore, 1228 2nd St. NE Minneapolis, MN, USA. With the Mizna writing group. March 3rd, 7:30-9 pm.
25. Arboretum Wyatt Deck – University of California Davis in Davis, Calif., USA. March 5, 4-6pm.
Please email about or post any additions below.