Poet Amal al-Jubouri on How She Lost and Found Her Voice

At “Iraq Matters,” Taif Jany interviews Iraqi poet Amal al-Jubouri, who was recently in Washington, DC as part of “Mutanabbi Street Starts Here” 2016:

iraq_mattersAl-Jubouri, author of Hagar Before the Occupation, Hagar After the Occupation, trans. into English by Rebecca Gayle Howell and Husam Qaisi, published her first poetry collection in Iraq in 1986. Before that, in 1984, she describes herself as a young girl — 16 or 17 — at a poetry festival.

It was at that festival that I lost my voice. My brothers were teenagers and I heard that they wanted to kill me, just because I participated at the festival. I was afraid…and as a result, I lost my voice.

But my voice came back when the great poet Nizar al-Qabbani intervened after the festival, and told Saddam’s government that when he got married in 1963, Iraq was an open-minded society. So why in 1984, is one young female poet threatened just for participating in a festival.

This is a story that gave back my voice when I was just 16 or 17. It gave my brain a shock.

It was two years later that she published her first collection, Wine from Wounds, and another eleven years after that when she fled Iraq.

“I was afraid,” she said in the interview, “but poetry was part of the healing process.”

Al-Jubouri talked, in the interview, about the 2007 bombing of Al-Mutanabbi Street, and about the lessons of the street, which she said are, “to forgive, but not to forget, and to not open up the doors of revenge.”

You can listen to the full interview online. 

You can read al-Jubouri’s poetry in translation at Poetry International Web, Connotation Press, and in the Split This Rock poetry database.