Three Poets You Should Know: Noor Naga, Mona Kareem, Iman Mersal

Last Friday, Iman Mersal and Mona Kareem spoke in New York City as part of Makhzin’s residency, a talk that has now appeared on SoundCloud. And on Tuesday, Noor Naga won the 2017 RBC Bronwen Wallace Award for Emerging Writers for her collection of poems The Mistress and the Ping:

Photo credit: Hossam Fahr.

Kareem laughs as she introduces Mersal as “a big influence” as, for its residency, Makhzin invited women Arab authors “to select and share books that were formative to their writing.” Yet the event description further promised that Mersal would challenge the “literary and canonical value of the term ‘influence.'”

“I thought for a moment that what has influenced us is more than what we know has influenced us. When we talk about influence we talk about what we remember, recognize, and also what we think of as ‘great literature,’ as if there are no traces of what has been forgotten, as if bad literature lacks any power over us.”

Mersal is a towering contemporary poet, and her Until We Give Up the Idea of Houses is forthcoming in translation by Robyn Creswell, I believe, next year. But you can read and hear 10 of her poems in translation now.

Kareem is a New York-based poet and translator; you can read her translations of poems by Palestinian poet Ashraf Fayadh, currently serving eight years and 800 lashes in Saudi Arabia for his collection Instructions Within; her own poetry has appeared in translation in Banipal.

You can also listen to the whole discussion here.

Then, on Tuesday, Noor Naga  won the $10,000 RBC Bronwen Wallace Award for Emerging Writers for her collection The Mistress and the Ping.

From the jury citation:

The Mistress and the Ping is constructed from exhilarating, mile-a-minute prose poems that are fresh, provocative, and often funny. These visceral pieces take surprising hairpin turns, pulling the reader through proclamations, inquiries, and bursts of self-doubt. Noor Naga achieves all this with a language that is rich and sensory, and a visually rigid structure that counter-intuitively unfolds to allow a multiplicity of pacing and play.

Noor Naga was selected by a jury made up of poets Adèle Barclay, Stuart Ross and Moez Surani. She was born in Philadelphia, raised in Dubai, studied in Toronto, and currently lives in Alexandria, Egypt.