Najwan Darwish is one of the foremost Arabic-language poets of his generation. He was born in Jerusalem in 1978, exactly thirty years after his family was exiled from their home in the western part of the city. Since the publication of his first collection in 2000, his poetry has met with acclaim across the Arab world. He has published five books, and his Selected Poems, translated into English by Kareem James Abu-Zeid, was published in 2014 by New York Review Books. Darwish has worked as the editor of two cultural magazines in Palestine and was a cultural critic for the prominent Lebanese newspaper Al-Akhbar between 2006 and 2012. He has also been an organizer and advisor for many public arts projects, among them the Palestine Festival of Literature. In 2009, he founded a literary press in Jerusalem, and is currently editor in chief of the arts and culture section of a new pan-Arab newspaper.
Half American and half Egyptian by blood, Kareem James Abu-Zeid is an award-winning translator of poets and novelists from across the Arab world. His most recent book-length translations include Najwan Darwish’s Nothing More to Lose (New York Review of Books), Dunya Mikhail’s The Iraqi Nights (New Directions), and Rabee Jaber’s Confessions and The Mehlis Report (New Directions). He has received residencies from the Lannan Foundation and the Banff International Center for the Arts, as well as a Fulbright research fellowship, and Poetry magazine’s 2014 translation prize, among other honors. He earned his PhD in Comparative Literature from UC Berkeley in 2016 with a dissertation on Adonis and Yves Bonnefoy entitled “Poetry as Spiritual Practice.” He holds an MA from UC Berkeley and a BA from Princeton. He also works as a freelance translator of French and German texts, as well as a freelance editor of English texts. His own interests are moving increasingly in the direction of spirituality and the nature of consciousness: he practices various forms of Buddhist meditation and spends several weeks each year on silent retreats.
Nathalie Handal was raised in Latin America, France, and the Middle East, and educated in Asia, the United States, and the United Kingdom. Poet, playwright, nonfiction and literary travel writer, her recent books include the flash collection The Republics, lauded 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 and the Arab American Book Award; the 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 said is “a book that trembles with belonging (and longing).” Her work has appeared in Vanity Fair, Guernica Magazine, the Guardian, the New York Times, the Nation, the Irish Times, the Virginia Quarterly Review, and on PBS and NPR, among others. Handal is a Lannan Foundation Fellow, Pen International Croatia Fellow, Centro Andaluz de las Letras Fellow, Fondazione di Venezia Fellow, winner of the Alejo Zuloaga Order in Literature, and Honored Finalist for the Gift of Freedom Award, among other honors. She is a professor at Columbia University and a visiting writer at the American University of Rome. Her most recent collection, Life in a Country Album, was published in October 2019.
Photo: The author in Brooklyn.