27 March 2014

Al-Mutanabbi Street Starts Here Poetry Reading and reception at Herron Art Library, March 5th, 2014

Al-Mutanabbi Street Starts Here at Herron Art Library, IUPUI

A Poetry Reading and reception took place at Herron Art Library, Artist Book Alcove
Herron School of Art and Design on Wednesday, March 5th, 2014. The event, hosted in collaboration with theAl-Mutanabbi Street Starts Here Coalition marked the bombing of the historic literary and cultural center of Baghdad, al-Mutanabbi Street, that stood as the major literary and cultural center of Baghdad for hundreds of years. On March 5th, 2007, a suicide bomber tragically destroyed this cultural center where scholars, artists, poets, and writers had gathered for centuries. In response to this destructive act a community of international artists and writers rallied to produce a collection of letterpress-printed broadsides (poster-like works on paper), artists’ books (unique works of art in book form), and an anthology of writing, all focused on expressing solidarity with Iraqi booksellers, writers and readers. The coalition of contributing artists calls itself Al-Mutanabbi Street Starts Here. Now, 7 years later, the Coalition is as strong as ever as it touches poets, artists, writers, and scholars worldwide. 
The event at the Herron Art Library was an intimate and movingly powerful one. After a brief introduction and welcome, the participants, who were drawn from the student, faculty, and staff of IUPUI as well as from the local community, introduced either their own original work or the work they were reading, with a display of some of the broadsides and artists’ books from the Coalition’s collection providing an appropriate and visually eloquent backcloth to the event. Their works expressed the poignancy and tragedy of acts of violence and destruction that have taken place in Baghdad, as well as the sense of rising hope and optimism that responses such as the Al-Mutanabbi Street Starts Here Coalition foster.
The readings
Alfan Abdulahad, Center for Interfaith Cooperation, spoke on Al-Mutanabbi, the 10th century classical Arabic poet for whom the street was named. Alfan discussed the poet’s life, his poetry, and her own reflections in both Arabic and English. Alfan moved to the United States from Iraq via Syria.
Basim Najeeb shared his reflections and experiences on al-Mutanabbi Street, the shops and street life there, and then read the poem, Good-bye My Hometown/Mahmood Sami Al-Baroodi in Arabic and English.
Karen Kovacik, Indiana’s Poet Laureate, 2011-2013; IUPUI School of Liberal Arts, Director of Creative Writing, Adjunct Professor of Women’s Studies, read a poem from her anthology which talked about the Buddha statues destroyed in Afghanistan.
Becky Lukovic, former IUPUI student, read her poem about Syria, Kerry Set the Table
Terry, Kirts, Senior Lecturer in English, Director of Rufus and Lois Reiberg Reading Series, read from the Al-Mutanabbi Street Starts Here Anthology
Zulaiha Razak, IUPUI student/Diversity Scholar, read the poem from the anthology, Black and Red by  Fred Norman
Leena Dobouni, IUPUI student/Diversity Scholar, read the poem, Baghdad  by Nizar al Kabbani in Arabic and English
Barbara Hussein, Coalition artist, presented her artist book describing its inspiration, content, and process.
Nina Ardery, Coalition artist, read a passage offered by Beau Beausoleil, Founder of the Coalition
The response to this event indicated a clear desire to make it an annual one. The occasion provided a touching opportunity for participants to share their experiences and reflections through the vehicle of poetry, while commemorating the tragic event that took place in Baghdad on March 5th, 2007.