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Searing New Collection of Poems from Mona Kareem
Mona Kareem is a stateless poet, born in Kuwait, whose work has been internationally acclaimed for its power and immediacy ever since she published her first collection at the age of 14. Her writing comes out of the experience of growing up with ‘Bidoon’ status (from ‘bidoon jinsiya’ or ‘without nationality’); an Arab minority denied Kuwaiti citizenship rights, who were categorised as ‘illegal residents’ and stripped of their access to employment, education, social welfare and official documentation a year before her birth.
Her poems are surreal, relying heavily on vivid metaphors, often to bridge the gap between the self and what lies outside the self. They enact a boundless porosity between the body, nature, and the material world. Kareem plays with language to explore the infinite depths of human experience and identity. These poems, with dates, times and places obscured, present us with new maps of precarious, unstable, and permeable geopolitics. Kareem delineates ‘rupture’ as a facet of the migrant’s experience.
This collection, translated into English by the poet and translator Sara Elkamel, brings together poems from Kareem’s three collections as well as new, unpublished pieces. It centres on themes that recur frequently in Kareem’s poetry – self-portraiture, exile, estrangement, city life, the journey to womanhood – offering an overview of Kareem’s 20-year poetry career, in English, for the first time.
”Mona Kareem writes geographies of exile with teeth, and with a cutting whimsy, that constantly upturns the landscapes around and inside her. Her verse is a tilling of the heart.” – Khairani Barokka, author of Ultimatum Orangutan and Editor of Modern Poetry in Translation
”Exacting and luminous” – Clare Pollard, author of Ovid’s Heroines and Delphi
Review @ AsymptoteAuthor Site
Mona Kareem is the author of three poetry collections. Her poetry has been translated into nine languages, and appeared (in English) in: POETRY, Poetry Northwest, Michigan Quarterly, Poetry London and Modern Poetry in Translation, among others. She is a recipient of a 2021 literary grant from the National Endowment for the Arts. Kareem holds a PhD in Comparative Literature and works as an assistant professor of Middle East Studies at Washington University St. Louis. Her translations include Ashraf Fayadh's Instructions Within (Operating System Press, 2016) (nominated for a BTBA award), Ra'ad Abdulqadir's Except for this Unseen Thread (Ugly Duckling Presse, 2021), and Octavia Butler's Kindred (Takween publishing, 2020).
Sara Elkamel is a poet, journalist and literary translator. Her debut chapbook, Field of No Justice, was published by the African Poetry Book Fund & Akashic Books in 2021, and her poems have appeared in international literary journals and anthologies. She holds an MA in arts journalism from Columbia University and an MFA in poetry from New York University.