Handal’s poetry draws on her experiences of dislocation, home, travel, and exile. In a review of The Lives of Rain, critic Elmaz Abinader commented, “Handal’s language, her cultural mixtures; her chameleon-like invisibility allows us to listen in on a fusion of languages and music, the hustle and bustle of being an immigrant and finding one’s way.” Handal also edited The Poetry of Arab Women: A Contemporary Anthology (2000) and, with Tina Chang and Ravi Shankar, coedited Language For a New Century: Contemporary Poetry from the Middle East, Asia, and Beyond (2008).
Her poetry has been set to music and performed at Lincoln Center; the Chamber Music Northwest Summer Music Festival in Portland, Oregon; and the River Run Center in Canada. She has released two CDs: Spell, with music by Will Soliman, and Traveling Rooms. Her plays include Between Our Lips (2006) and The Stonecutters (2007). She has been playwright-in-residence at the New York Theatre Workshop and is a member of Nibras Theatre Collective.