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Dunya Mikhail: The modern Sappho of the Middle East


Dunya Mikhail: The Modern Sappho Of The Middle East


Last time we covered an author who is beloved by his native country, both old and young.

This time, we cover an author who is, well, when you have to leave the country you grew up in to escape a dictator who decided to put a literal target on your head, let’s just say you’re probably not going to have anime hunks that lonely college English majors salivate over in their dorm rooms made in your likeness nearly 70 years after your death.

Today on Moldy Used Books, we cover the poetry of Dunya Mikhail, the modern Sappho of the Middle East.

Mikhail recently published a book of poems entitled, “The Iraqi Nights,” which like the vast majority of her work, focuses on the war and strife that has plagued her country for thousands of years.

Mikhail has become more popular in the West as the United States has gotten further involved in Middle Eastern conflicts, especially in the post 9/11 years. She was interviewed on NPR in 2007, a few years after her previous book, “The War Works Hard,” came out. She has been published in the Poetry Foundation’s monthly literary magazine, which has an acceptance rate of less than one percent.

Most of her poems are mostly free-verse, but rely a lot on allusions to ancient folklore, concrete details, repetition and personification.

Mikhail’s title poem of her first major collection of poetry, “The War Works Hard,” uses just that to display the horrors of war. She personifies war as a “hard-working” individual who makes widows, orphans and graves, with a Jonathan Swift-like satirical tone.

Cover Image Credit: Poetry Foundation


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