On March 5th, 2007, a car bomb was exploded on al-Mutanabbi Street in Baghdad—the historic center of Baghdad bookselling—wounding more than 100 people and killing more than 30. This anthology begins with a historical introduction to al-Mutanabbi Street and includes the writing of Iraqis as well as a wide swath of international poets and writers who were outraged by this attack. Exploring the question Where does al-Mutanabbi Street start?, the book looks at both communities and nations, seeking to show the commonality between a small street in Baghdad and other individual cultural centers and explain why this attack was an attack on us all. Chapters examine al-Mutanabbi Street as a place for the free exchange of ideas, a place that has long offered its sanctuary to the complete spectrum of Iraqi voices, and a place where the roots of democracy took hold many hundreds of years ago.
About the Author
Beau Beausoleil is the founder of the Al-Mutanabbi Street Coalition and the author of Concealed in Language. Deema Shehabi is a Pushcart Prize–nominated writer who has contributed to numerous journals, including the Kenyon Review, Literary Imagination, and Poetry Review (London). She is the author of Thirteen Departures from the Moon. They both live in San Francisco.
"This anthology celebrates the exquisite relationship between the book and the reader, humanity and culture, writing and life and love. It is a tribute to a street that grows into a large and archetypal symbol and spatial metaphor for books." —Muhsin al-Musawi, professor of Arabic and comparative studies, Columbia University
"The collection of materials in this anthology is astounding and harrowing. Beausoleil and Shehabi have put together a book that will be adored by lovers of poetry, essays, journalism, and testimony. It will also be required reading for anyone interested in social justice." —Steven Salaita, associate professor of English, Virginia Tech University
"This is a wonderful and exceptionally moving anthology and a compelling collection of poetic and historical merit." —Susan Slyomovics, professor of anthropology, UCLA
"This extraordinary collection asks us to account for our lack of resistance, and to begin learning just what it might mean to resist." —Ammiel Alcalay, chair of classical, Middle Eastern and Asian languages and cultures, Queens College
"Al-Mutanabbi Street Starts Here is a fine collection of prose and poetry by international writers that helps us turn our gaze, our hearts and minds to the free expression that connects us all." —www.HuffingtonPost.com
"Al-Mutanabbi Street Starts Here
features a diversity of voices unified in their commitment to a shared project of literary activism, a shared assertion that books—and literature and knowledge—must triumph in the face of blind ignorance and fundamentalism." —Asmaa Abdallah, Jadaliyya
"This anthology is recommended, not only for its literary merits, but also for its testimony." —Issa J. Boullata, World Literature Today
"Dunya Mikhail’s (2012) poem ‘A half-burned page on al-Mutanabbi Street’ shares al-Bustani’s concern whether Iraqi knowledge will survive the occupation, but arrives at a decidedly more optimistic conclusion. Mikhail’s poem visually performs books’ and bodies’ having been torn apart and ‘scattered’ (l. 6, 10) by the car bomb. It constitutes a poetological rumination on the value of literature and the legitimacy of reading the world symbolically—that is, for meaning—in light of events which prima facie lend credence to the nihilist philosophical position that life has no meaning." —European Journal of English Studies