Poets Respond to Torture


Warscapes Public Lectures Series held it's third event, "Poets Respond to Torture" in collaboration with "Ethics, Power, and Justice" at The New School For Public Engagement on November 11, 2015.

Sinan Antoon, Nathalie Handal and Brenda Marie Osbey were featured at the event. Noam Scheindlin was the moderator.

Torture can make the world shrink until there is no consciousness but that of pain. How, then, can we use poetry, which opens and expands our understanding of the world, to describe such a deprivation of humanity? In light of the systematic abuses described in the "Senate Intelligence Committee report on CIA Torture," the ongoing injustices at Guantanamo and Bagram, and of government complicity in torture throughout the world, we present you poets who will explore the connections between poetry, narrative, news, bodies, public policy, and torture.

Sinan Antoon’s teaching and research interests lie in pre-modern and modern Arabic literature and contemporary Arab culture and politics. His scholarly works include The Poetics of the Obscene: Ibn al-Hajjaj and Sukhf (Palgrave-Macmillan, 2014) and numerous essays on the poetry of Mahmoud Darwish, Sargon Boulus, and on contemporary Iraqi culture. His essays and creative writings in Arabic have appeared in major journals and publications in the Arab world and on Aljazeera.net and in The New York TimesThe NationMiddle East Report, Journal of Palestine StudiesJournal of Arabic LiteratureThe Massachusetts Review, World Literature TodayPloughshares, and Washington Square Journal. He is a member of the Editorial Review Board of the Arab Studies Journal and co-founder and co-editor of Jadaliyya. He has published two collections of poetry in Arabic and one collection in English:The Baghdad Blues (Harbor Mountain Press, 2007). His first novel I`jaam: An Iraqi Rhapsody (City Lights, 2007) appears in German, Portuguese, Norwegian, and Italian editions. He translated his second novel, Wahdaha Shajarat al-Rumman (Beirut, 2010), into English as The Corpse Washer  for Yale University Press in 2013 and the work was recognized with a 2014 Saif Ghobash Banipal Prize for translation and on the long list for the 2014 Independent Foreign Fiction Prize for best translated fiction. His third novel Ya Maryam (Dar al-Jamal, 2012), whose Spanish edition Fragmentos de Bagdad  was translated by Maria Luz Commedado, was released from Turner Libros in 2014. His translations from the Arabic include Mahmoud Darwish’s In the Presence of Absence  (Archipelago, 2011) and a selection of Iraqi poet Saadi Youssef’s late work, Nostalgia; My Enemy  (Graywolf, 2012). His translation of Toni Morrison’s Home was published in Arabic in 2014. Antoon returned to his native Baghdad in 2003 as a member of InCounter Productions to co-direct a documentary, About Baghdad, about the lives of Iraqis in a post-Saddam-occupied Iraq. He was a 2009 postdoctoral fellow at the EUME Program at the Wissenschaftskolleg zu Berlin and a 2013 fellow of the American Academy in Berlin.   In 2014, Antoon was the Distinguished Visiting Creative Writer at the American University in Cairo. Follow Antoon on Twitter: @sinanantoon

Nathalie Handal was raised in Latin America, France and the Arab world, and educated in the United States and United Kingdom. She is the author of the flash collection The Republics, which Patricia Smith lauds as “one of the most inventive books by one of today’s most diverse writers” and winner of the Virginia Faulkner Award for Excellence in Writing; the bestselling bilingual collection La estrella invisible / The Invisible Star; the critically acclaimed Poet in Andalucía; and Love and Strange Horses, winner of the Gold Medal Independent Publisher Book Award, which The New York Times says is “a book that trembles with belonging (and longing).” Handal is the editor of the groundbreaking classic The Poetry of Arab Women: A Contemporary Anthology, winner of the PEN Oakland Josephine Miles Book Award, and named one of the top 10 Feminist Books by The Guardian; and co-editor of the W.W. Norton landmark anthology Language for a New Century: Contemporary Poetry from the Middle East, Asia & Beyond, both Academy of American Poets bestsellers. She has worked on over twenty theatrical productions either as a playwright, director or producer. Author of eight plays, her most recent works have been produced at The John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, the Bush Theatre and Westminster Abbey in London. Her work has appeared in numerous publications including Vanity Fair, Guernica Magazine, The Guardian, The New York Times, The Nation, Virginia Quarterly Review, and Ploughshares; and she served in several countries as a lecturer and cultural diplomat for the U.S. State Department. Handal is a Lannan Foundation Fellow, winner of the Alejo Zuloaga Order in Literature, and Honored Finalist for the Gift of Freedom Award, among other honors. Based in New York City and Paris, she is a professor at Columbia University and part of the Low-Residency MFA Faculty at Sierra Nevada College. She writes the literary travel column "The City and the Writer" for Words without Borders. Follow Handal on Twitter: @NathalieHandal

Brenda Marie Osbey, a New Orleans native, is an author of poetry and prose nonfiction in English and French. Her previous volumes include All Saints: New and Selected Poems, which received the 1998 American Book Award. In 2005-2007, she served as the first peer-selected poet laureate of Louisiana. Studies of her work appear in such critical texts as Soutbscapes: Geographies of Race, Region and Literature by Thadious M. Davis (University of North Carolina Press, 2011); Forms of Expansion; Recent Long Poems by Women by Lynn Keller (U. Chicago Press, 1997); The Future of Southern Letters, edited by Jefferson Humphries and John Lowe (Oxford, 1996); and such reference works as Contemporary Authors; the Oxford Companion to African American Literature (1997), the Dictionary of Literary Biography (Oxford, 1997); and Dictionnaire des Créatrices (Editions des Femmes, 2011). Her essays have been published in The American Voice, Georgia Review, BrightLeaf, Southern Literary Journal and Creative Nonfiction. She has been a resident fellow of the MacDowell Colony, the Fine Arts Work Center in Provincetown, the Kentucky Foundation for Women, the Virginia Center for the Creative Arts, the Millay Colony, the Camargo Foundation and the Bunting Institute of Radcliffe College, Harvard University. She has received fellowships and awards also from the National Endowment for the Arts, the Louisiana Division of the Arts, and the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Foundation among others. She is currently Distinguished Visiting Professor of Africana Studies at Brown University. Her recent volume is All Souls: Essential Poems (LSU Press, 2015) is now available. Follow Osbey on Twitter: @OsbeyNola

Noam Scheindlin is a poet and literary theorist.  His research interests center on the poetics of narrative form, and the relation of narrative to the experience of everyday life. He is a student of writers, such as Georges Perec and Edmond Jabès, whose work confronts a breakdown in communication.  His articles have been published in various academic journals.  His volumes of poetry include The Proper Conditions for Flight (G-Train Books) and Unorganized Territory (Ten Pell). He holds a doctorate in Comparative Literature from the CUNY Graduate Center, and is currently Associate Professor at LaGuardia Community College, CUNY.

Event held at: Room UL 104 at The New School University Center, 63 Fifth Avenue. Free Admission.

Feature Image: The panel at the “Poets Respond to Tor­ture” event on Novem­ber 11, 2015. (From right to left: Brenda Marie Osbey, Noam Scheindlin, Nathalie Han­dal, and Sinan Antoon). (Photo/Asiya Haouchine)