The Poetry of Arab Women: A Contemporary Anthology

A CLASSIC – a bestseller for over a decade

Winner of the Pen Oakland Josephine Miles Award
Academy of American Poets Bestseller
Starred Reviews
Recommended in 360° of Reading: A Literature
Top Picks Poetry Anthologies

This anthology was prepared to eradicate invisibility: to provide an introduction to Arab women poets, to make visible the works of a great number of Arab women poets who are virtually unknown to the West, to make visible many Arab-American women poets who are marginalized within the American literary and ethnic scenes, and to demonstrate the wide diversity of Arab women’s poetry, which extends to other languages besides Arabic and English (as in the case of Arab women poets writing in French and Swedish). This anthology seeks to unite Arab women poets from all over the Arab world and abroad, regardless of what language they write in and whether they were born in an Arab country or not. Its aim is to bridge the religious, linguistic and geographical spaces existing among Arab women worldwide. With the exception of Oman and Sudan, every Arab country has been represented in this volume. Included are Arab women in exile or living in non-Arab countries and women poets of Arab descent from Europe and North America. The volume incorporates the most accomplished Arab women poets of the twentieth century, including those of the distinctive new generation. It opens a door to a new and fast changing world where women are an extremely vital force in both literary and social terms. The introduction provides a historical overview for understanding contemporary Arab women’s poetry, including the singularity as well as the shared trends and movements in the work of these eighty-three poets. 

With the publication of The Poetry of Arab Women a world long silenced discloses itself in a symphony of lyric utterance at once passionate and profound. These are voices of struggle and forbearance, anguish and survival, nomadic spirit and exilic being, various and innovative, startling in their gifts. Beautifully researched, translated and compiled, this book is necessary to any appreciation of world literature in our time.
– Carolyn Forché

THE POETRY OF ARAB WOMEN arrives: an astonishing, huge accomplishment! A thousand thanks to the brilliant, and, apparently, tireless, editor, Nathalie Handal, whose massive, opening essay presents so much large, and nuanced, information, so coherently! Here we may meet and marvel at 83 Arab women poets—many translated, of necessity, from Arabic, French, Swedish, and Hebrew! From the visionary, elder Lebanese poet, Etel Adnan, to the Lebanese American young poet, Dima Hilal, who writes with passionate lucidity, and more and more and more, this is an incredible, international gathering of Arab women poets writing from the first quarter of the 20th century through now—right now! From grievous issues of national and/or religious and/or gender identity under relentless assault, to affirmations of family and/or ardent documentation of Arab beauty and desire, this anthology demolishes stereotypes, and allows the whole world to see and hear the powerful complexity, and longing, that these Arab women poets so memorably articulate.
– June Jordan

It’s late in the world when I finish reading this amazing book of Arab women’s poetry.  I cannot put it down and wish to carry it with me everywhere, as a text for remembering how crucial poetry is for the survival of the soul. Each poem carries within it water, blood and the sound of a woman singing. There is sky and earth.  I admire these Arab women poets who are makers of some of this world’s finest poetry. What a gift to find them all here together!
– Joy Harjo

The scope and ambition of this collection are both remarkable and necessary. Under the rubric “Arab women poets” it reveals a multiplicity of imaginations, presences, roots, migrations, artistic strategies. Contemporary Arab women are writing poetry in French, Swedish, English, Spanish as well ad Arabic; thus the task of translation has been complex. These are poems both of revolution and evolution, emerging from the ancient, rich but exclusionary tradition of poetry in Arabic. Thus they enlarge the domain of poetry itself.  
– Adrienne Rich  

Ancient Arab women are sometimes anthologized, but contemporary poets don’t get the attention that they deserve and that this ambitious volume begins to give them…out of a cacophony of voices, styles, and visions, deeper understanding of what it means to be an Arab and a poet…this anthology answers a long-felt need, and its arrival should be celebrated.  
– Booklist

Eighty-two Arab women poets from all over the world are gathered in this highly charged, stunning anthology. Editor Nathalie Handal has done an amazing job of presenting a massive body of work by a group of women poets who are hardly known on the international poetry stage…In the male dominated, global poetry community this struggle is endless, but poets like Elmaz Abi-Nader, Safaa Fathy, Dunya Mikhail, Amal Moussa, and Fatma Kandil continue to write, sing, and disrupt the status quo. Handal has organized the work of 40 translators who present outstanding English versions of poetry by women from Algeria, Egypt, Iraq, Lebanon, Libya, Palestine and 10 other countries. This book is a rich magnet from cultures whose women are some of the leading artists of a vibrant world.  
– The Bloomsbury Review  

Stands out as an ambitious attempt to ensure a greater visibility not only for Arab women poets but also for other women poets who are of Arab origin. International in its scope, the anthology presents the works of 83 poets…Handal has sought and succeeded in demonstrating some of the shared experiences and concerns (private, national and universal) that mark their poetry…Handal deserves high praise for producing an anthology that mirrors faithfully Arab women’s creative role throughout the last century. Highly recommended.  
– MultiCultural Review  

Handal assembles a catalog of the anomie of displacement that links the eighty-three poets selected for this collection. Her lengthy introduction, both factually impressive and emotionally heartwarming, awakens an excited interest for the poetry that follows. A haunting and pervasive commitment unites these poets…The poetic gift of every woman in the collection is, as always, unique and individual… A number of the poets, especially Arab Americans, write in English, but those needing translation have been blessed with carefully selected artists. The English versions have a grace and an integrity seldom found in translations.  
– Foreword  

This rich anthology goes a long way toward introducing contemporary Arab women poets, Arab-American women poets writing in English, and a few other women poets of Arab origin writing in French and Swedish. Its main virtue is that in one handsome volume it presents 209 poems of various lengths and styles by 83 women, some born in the Arab world and some elsewhere, but all rooted in Arab culture and experiencing the modern world as they carve their own identity. The editor, Nathalie Handal, a well-known Arab-American poet…is to be congratulated for compiling this useful volume…Only someone who knows the complex work of editing, making wise selections, seeking qualified translators…can fully appreciate Handal’s efforts. In addition, she wrote a 62-page introduction providing a good historical overview of contemporary Arab women’s poetry…on reading these poets from A to Z, one is impressed by the symphony of their voices, singular yet united…These voices are distinctive, articulate, authentic, and they dare to say what men poets sometimes dissimulate. Understandably not comprehensive, this anthology is however quite representative of the powerful poetry of Arab women and is a visible confirmation of its effective existence.  
– Al Jadid Magazine

A landmark: the first survey of poetry entirely by Arab women with roots in nearly every Arab country…Strong introductory collection…While the 60-page introduction helps the reader with the inevitable difficulties of context that such a broad survey presents, there is sublime, occasionally fierce beauty in the poems themselves, which arrive with vitality, freshness and surprising power. The book argues well for the broader recognition of Arab poetry, by women or men, as a world literary force.  
– Aramco  

In this beautifully produced, elegant and thoroughly researched volume, Nathalie Handal has created a fresh image of the women of the Arab world…a great achievement, and long awaited….She is to be congratulated, further, for the detailed and informative preface, introduction and biographical notes on each poet, translator and reader. This anthology is a wonderful confirmation of the increasing interest in Arab literature by the West over the last few years… Altogether a great anthology that will become a well-worn bedside book as well as a valuable source of reference. 
– Banipal  

The poetic voices of Arab women…are beautifully captured in this timely volume edited by the Arab-American scholar and poet Nathalie Handal…the anthology succeeds eminently in giving the reader the opportunity to appreciate the new and powerful verse of contemporary Arab women…In her sixty-two page introduction, Handal gives a succinct account of the development of Arab poetry in general, then places the poetry of Arab women within it as one of rising importance…Handal is to be congratulated for having compiled this rich anthology and for making Arab women’s poetry known and easily accessible. She is also to be thanked for her great efforts in making wise selections; for finding good translators, second translators, and helpful poets and critics as consultant readers…the poems…constitute a symphony of voices articulating Arab’s women’s hopes, feelings, and experiences so powerfully that a new, hitherto unknown image of Arab women impresses itself on the Western reader’s mind…this poetry is authentic in its expression of Arab women’s yearning for a place in the sun…This anthology makes visible their admirable struggle and their compelling verbal art.  
– World Literature Today  

– The News Circle (LA) 

Superb…Congratulations on a brilliant piece of work.  
– Peter Clark (British Council)  

– Orange County Library  

Stands out as a monument to Arab women as poets and wordsmiths evoking images and rhythms of language born of their experience, art and imagination. Of special note is the lengthy introduction, followed by representative selections from more than 80 Arab women of diverse backgrounds and life experiences. 
– Bookwatch

Under the able editorship of Nathalie Handal, The Poetry Of Arab Women: A Contemporary Anthology stands as a monument to the manifold literary of Arab women as poets and wordsmiths evoking images and rhythms of language born of their experience, art, and imagination. Of special note is the lengthy introduction, followed by representative selections from more than 80 Arab women of diverse backgrounds and life experiences.   
– Midwest Book Review  

Handal has gathered work from “most of the older and newer contemporary voices” of the Arab diaspora, over 80 poets writing in Arabic, French, English and other languages, and living in Syria, Saudi Arabia, Lebanon, Yemen, Gaza and the U.S. Handal’s introduction, along with biographical notes on the poets and many translators, helps to place them.
– Publishers Weekly  

An extremely thorough collection…Handal’s introduction does an excellent job of setting the poems in context…The poets whose work appears here are largely excellent…I want to show this to everyone who regards Arabs as ‘those other people who aren’t like us.’…These are impressive poems, brave poems, diverse poems. And this is an impressive, brave and diverse book. Although I found it painful sometimes, I recommend it highly. No: maybe because I found it painful sometimes. This is a book that people need to read.  
– Pif Magazine

I feast on the Poetry of Arab Women.
– Oprah Magazine

> Publisher’s Weekly
> Multicultural Review
> The Bloomsbury Review
> ForeWord Magazine
> Booklist
> Boston Herald
> World Literature Today
> Wisconsin Bookwatch
> Folgers Shakespeare Library
   & US State Department

> Islamic Studies
> Al Quds Al-Arabi / London
> Arab News Review
> The Daily Star / Lebanon
> Al-Nahar Newspaper / Beirut