We are excited to announce that San Francisco poet laureate Jack Hirschman will be in Chicago, scheduled to give two public readings and discuss his work, at the Jane Addams Hull House Museum and at Mess Hall. For details on this and other events in the festival, check out the Festival Events category on the left sidebar of this blog. We will be featuring Jack’s poetry along with others throughout the rest of the month. For now, as a taste of how significant this visit is, visit Jack’s site at http://asitoughttobe.wordpress.com/2010/04/06/jack-hirschman/ where you will read about the Iraqi poetry festival from which he has just returned.
April 6, 2010
Jack Hirschman photograph by Marco Cinque.
THE AL-MARBID INTERNATIONAL POETRY FESTIVAL
March 23-25 in BASRA, IRAQ
by Jack Hirschman
When Agneta Falk and I were invited, a couple of months earlier, to participate in the Festival, we were eager to do so notwithstanding the dangers because we had been in email touch with Sabah Jasim, an Iraqi poet and comrade since 2006, who had translated poems written by both of us. It was Sabah Jasim who I invited to the San Francisco International Poetry Festival in 2007 and who was cruelly refused entrance into the U.S. (after 23 days in Damascus, Syria, where he went to obtain his visa, he received it on the last day of our Festival in San Francisco, though Kareem James Abu-Zeid, a brilliant young translator of Arabic poetry, translated some of Sabah’s work and presented it at one of the Festival’s venues.
So there was the meeting between us all at the Basra airport where, after much bureaucracy, Aggie and I received our visas for Al-Marbid. We finally met Sabah in person and drove with him and two other poets, Furat Salih and Thamir Sa’id, to the Golden Tulip Hotel, a very modern structure, where we met Mudhafa Al-Rubai, the organizing overseer of the poets invited from other countries. On the way in we’d gone through a couple of checkpoints and noted that a car proceeded ours in which two at least and sometimes three armed Iraqi security forces were ever present. The same would hold for the large modern bus which carried all the guest poets to different venues: we became accustomed to the sight of soldiers with kalishnikovs or handguns leading the way in cars, and guarding the front of the Hotel. Basra had been “secured” some time ago by the British and American forces. But all of Iraq is still a war zone and security is very heavy.
At the Hotel I was asked by Thamir Sa’id to do an interview, in which Dr. Adel Al-Thamary translated the questions to me, which were largely about my views on Poetry.
Next morning the poets all piled into the bus provided by the Ministry of Culture—which had organized the Festival under the direction of 34 year-old Aqeel Mindlawie—and we went into Basra to the Petroleum Cultural Center Hall, a vast domed-like workers’ Hall where, after ceremonious speeches and an extraordinary dance ensemble called the El Basra Group for . . . (to read more, click AS IT OUGHT TO BE)