Poet Dunya Mikhail Visits Gannon University

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Monday, April 11th, 2016 at 9:00 AM
Poet Dunya Mikhail Visits Gannon University by Angie Jeffery
Contributed photo

Iraqi born poet Dunya Mikhail will be in Erie on Wednesday, April 13, as a part of the annual Gannon University English Awards Night. Mikhail, born in Baghdad in 1965, earned her degree from The University of Baghdad. She then worked as a translator and journalist in Baghdad until 1996, when she was placed on Saddam Hussein’s enemies list. She eventually fled the country and went to Jordan and later immigrated to the United States where she earned her Master of Arts degree from Wayne State University.

Mikhail is the recipient the Arab American Book Award for Diary of A Wave Outside the Sea (2010), a U.N. Human Rights Award for Freedom Writing (2001), and a Kresge Artist Fellowship (2013). Mikhail was shortlisted for the Griffin Prize and her book, The War Works Hard (2005) was named one of “Twenty-Five Books to Remember for 2005” by the New York Public Library.

According to the Gannon press release, "Mikhail is known for her subversive, innovative, and satirical poetry, which speaks to her experiences growing up in a war-torn country. Reportage, fable, and lyric are forms she uses to describe the traumas of war, exile, and loss, and to discuss the effect of censorship on her work." 

It would be easy to think that locals who have always lived in Erie and have never known the ravages of war would not connect with Mikhail's poetry, but that is far from the truth. While bringing us into her experience, her poetry also connects with something deeper and more at the core of human existence. It is exactly what we need in a time when we are seeing such opposing views among people who are not from the same place on the globe. Mikhail helps us to find a bond and gives us a deeper understanding of compassion, as many poets do. Berwyn Moore, professor of English at Gannon says, “Mikhail's voice is an important one, embodying wisdom, courage, and beauty even as it grieves for a country devastated by war."

April is the 20th anniversary of National Poetry Month, and what better way to celebrate than to see a famous poet and gain a new perspective? Gannon University's English Awards Night is free and the public is heartily welcomed. It will take place in the Yehl Room of the Waldron Campus Center, 124 West Seventh Street. There is also a seminar with Mikhail earlier in the day at 3 p.m. in room 2201 of The Palumbo Academic Center, 824 Peach Street. The seminar is also free and open to the public.

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