Three Poets You Should Know: Noor Naga, Mona Kareem, Iman Mersal

These visceral pieces take surprising hairpin turns, pulling the reader through proclamations, inquiries, and bursts of self-doubt. Then, on Tuesday, Noor Naga   won the $10,000 RBC Bronwen Wallace Award for Emerging Writers for her collection The Mistress and the Ping. Noor Naga was selected by a jury made up of poets Adèle Barclay, Stuart Ross and Moez Surani. Kareem laughs as she introduces Mersal as “a big influence” as, for its residency, Makhzin invited women Arab authors “to select and share books that were formative to their writing.” Yet the event description further promised that Mersal would challenge the “literary and canonical value of the term ‘influence.’”
“I thought for a moment that what has influenced us is more than what we know has influenced us. Last Friday, Iman Mersal and Mona Kareem spoke in New York City as part of Makhzin’s residency, a talk that has now appeared on SoundCloud. When we talk about influence we talk about what we remember, recognize, and also what we think of as ‘great literature,’ as if there are no traces of what has been forgotten, as if bad literature lacks any power over us.”
Mersal is a towering contemporary poet, and her   Until We Give Up the Idea of Houses   is forthcoming in translation by Robyn Creswell, I believe, next year. Noor Naga achieves all this with a language that is rich and sensory, and a visually rigid structure that counter-intuitively unfolds to allow a multiplicity of pacing and play. And on Tuesday, Noor Naga won the 2017 RBC Bronwen Wallace Award for Emerging Writers for her   collection of poems The Mistress and the Ping:
Photo credit: Hossam Fahr. She   was born in Philadelphia, raised in Dubai, studied in Toronto, and currently lives in Alexandria, Egypt. Kareem is a New York-based poet and translator; you can read her translations of poems by Palestinian poet Ashraf Fayadh, currently serving eight years and 800 lashes in Saudi Arabia for his collection Instructions Within;   her own poetry has appeared in translation in   Banipal. From the jury citation:
The Mistress and the Ping   is constructed from exhilarating, mile-a-minute prose poems that are fresh, provocative, and often funny. You can also listen to the whole discussion here. But you can read and hear 10 of her poems in translation now. Advertisements

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