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Naomi Shihab Nye, Michael Simms & Friends: Poets for the People of Gaza

Please join us online today Thursday, July 1, 7pmEDT for a City of Asylum Crowdcast. To register to attend the free event, please click here.

Naomi Shihab Nye, the current Young People’s Poet Laureate, and poet Michael Simms gather international poets to share works that navigate themes of identity, displacement, and home in Gaza.

About the poets:

Naomi Shihab Nye is a poet, songwriter, and novelist, and is the Young People’s Poet Laureate through the Poetry Foundation, has recently published Everything Comes Next, The Tiny Journalist, Cast Away, and Voices in the Air – Poems for Listeners.

Michael Simms’s most recent book of poetry is American Ash. As the founding editor of Vox Populi and the founding editor emeritus of Autumn House Press and Coal Hill Review, Simms was recognized in 2011 by the Pennsylvania State Legislature for his contribution to the arts. 

Philip Metres is a poet, professor, and author of Shrapnel Maps and Sand Opera, among other books, has recently been working with We Are Not Numbers, an organization dedicated to mentoring Palestinian youth from Gaza as they write their stories for English-reading audiences. 

Zeina Azzam is a Palestinian American poet, writer, editor, and community activist, whose chapbook Bayna Bayna In-Between was published in 2021. 

Mosab Abu Toha is a Palestinian poet, fiction writer, essayist from Gaza, is the Founder of the Edward Said Public Library in Gaza and was a visiting poet/scholar at Harvard in 2019-2020.

Californian Danusha Laméris is the author of The Moons of August (Autumn House Press, 2014), and Bonfire Opera, (University of Pittsburgh Press, 2020), teaches poetry independently, and is on the faculty of Pacific University’s low residency MFA program.

Kathy Engel, poet & cultural worker, teaches in Tisch School of the Arts at NYU, recently published The Lost Brother Alphabet, and, in 2007, co-edited with Kamal Boullata, We Begin Here: Poems for Palestine and Lebanon.

Lena Khalaf Tuffaha is a poet, essayist, and translator. Her first book of poems, WATER & SALT, won the 2018 Washington State Book Award. She is also the author of two chapbooks, ARAB IN NEWSLAND, winner of the 2016 Two Sylvias Prize and LETTERS FROM THE INTERIOR, finalist for the 2020 Jean Pedrick Award.  

The son of Arab immigrants, born in Detroit, Hayan Charara is a poet, children’s book author, essayist and editor who lives in Houston.

Nour Al Ghraowi, a Syrian writer, activist, and educator, writes about social justice, and migrant identity with works appearing in Poetry magazine and others. 

This program is in proud partnership with Vox Populi, a public sphere for poetry, politics, and nature. 

To register to attend the free event, please click here.

8 comments on “Naomi Shihab Nye, Michael Simms & Friends: Poets for the People of Gaza

  1. Barbara Huntington
    July 2, 2021

    Is there a recording? I missed it.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Vox Populi
      July 2, 2021

      yes, the event has been archived. If you click on the link, you will go to the recording of the event.

      Liked by 2 people

  2. Vox Populi
    July 2, 2021

    A couple of people asked for a copy of my introductory remarks to the Gaza reading. Here they are:


    • Michael Simms
      July 2, 2021

      Good evening. I’d like to thank Karla and Abby for inviting us to do this reading for the people of Gaza, as well as Henry Reese and Diane Samuels, the founding geniuses of City of Asylum Pittsburgh. I’d also like to thank my co-hosts Naomi and Nour and the poets who are joining us this evening.

      Passions run deep on the issue of the Palestinian struggle for freedom. But whatever our feelings about the issue, certain facts and the implications of those facts are irrefutable. Let me share three items taken from the New York Times, a publication not known for being friendly to the Palestinian cause:

      Fact # 1: The United Nations recently declared Israel to be an APARTHEID STATE which means that most of the world sees Israel as a pariah, similar to South Africa before the liberation. As one Jewish writer who lives in Israel put it, “Israel is a society based on a religious caste system. One’s legal status in Israel depends on one’s religion.” The United States, alone among nations, claims that Israel is a beacon of democracy, but this is a cynical lie. Instead, Israel is a Western-style democracy for some of its people and an oppressive tyranny for the rest.

      Fact # 2: Israel has conducted a blockade of Gaza for over 10 years which has severely restricted the importation of food and medicine, limited access to electricity and clean water, and kept the people of Gaza trapped within its borders. For good reason, Gaza has often been called the “largest prison in the world.”

      Fact # 3: The unemployment rate in Gaza is estimated to be nearly 75 percent, and 70 percent of the population is food insecure. If Gaza were an independent nation, it would be, by some measures, the poorest country in the world. The poverty of Gaza is caused not only by the 10-year blockade, but also by the regular bombings, assassinations, arrests, beatings and intimidation imposed on Gaza by Israel. The United States, as Israel’s ally and financial backer, is complicit in these crimes.

      And yet… and yet… despite the overwhelming oppression, the Palestinian people continue to resist. I find their brave persistence inspiring. I’d like to close my remarks here by reading lines from a poem of mine called Dandelion. The poem is too long to read now, but it is about the persistent resistance of a weed that people keep trying to wipe out, and yet because of the plant’s deep roots, quick adaptability, and ability to spread its seed to far places, it survives, and there are now more dandelion plants in the world than there has ever been. So, here’s the closing of the poem:

      In the cracks of asphalt,
      in the broken ground,
      in the abandoned field

      of the demolished house,
      among the tumble of brick
      and block and rebar rising out of rubble,

      out of bomb crater and bulldozed gravel,
      out of disaster and mayhem,
      out of disorder and ugly order,

      out of beautiful neglect
      wilding occurs, and so
      on thin white wings

      the seed settles
      bringing life to ruined places.

      Thank you for being here. Let me remind you that in the comments section of your screen, you will see links to well-established charities which specialize in helping the children of Gaza. Please do make a donation.

      And now, I’d like to pass the baton to the woman who has often been called “America’s best-loved poet.” Naomi Shihab Nye.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. jfrobb
    July 1, 2021

    I already signed up through City of Asylum. Your voices for this are important! Looking forward to it.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Saleh Razzouk
    July 1, 2021

    thank you for being with the victimized land.

    Liked by 1 person

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