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Arab American Book Awards for Khaled Mattawa, Farid Matuk

By Harriet Staff

The 2011 Arab American Book Awards have given some love to poets Khaled Mattawa (winner for Tocqueville, New Issues) and Farid Matuk (honorable mention for This Isa Nice Neighborhood, Letter Machine Editions; also a finalist for PSA’s Norma Farber First Book Award). Congrats to both!

In 2010, Shawn Kemp wrote about Matuk:

If a neighborhood, by definition, is “a district or locality, often with reference to its character or inhabitants,” Farid Matuk’s This Isa Nice Neighborhood from Letter Machine Editions explores the ramifications of a[n] increasingly global culture and economy on the neighborhood-concept through the aesthetic lens of a poetry. A poem such as “Hollywood,” for instance, presents the reader with a personal, thus local, scene in its incipient lines: “Why shouldn’t I take your pills / you’ve got the hospice Percocet all day” (69). If we assume, based upon the poem’s title, that we can locate the speaker in Los Angeles, an abrupt alternation in geography occurs just one line later: “normally that lane in Kabul would be thick / with schoolgirls / but the Taliban came through.” Moments later, the speaker states: “I’d like to go piss outside / to affirm life Dallas is / everywhere”; then, once again, the poem returns to Afghanistan, but via a British television broadcast: “President Karzai is not afraid, BBC says.” Such dislocations occur throughout the poem, as well as throughout the collection as a whole, but these dislocations, or “parts of the poem / levitate at once / into a constellation” (73) so as to develop a loose but highly constructed relationship with one another.

You can find more of Matuk’s work in a Boston Review poetry sampler here. As well, according to Arabic Literature, the current issue of Guernica has more Arab-American lit to peruse, including selections from Diana Abu-Jaber, Patricia Sarrafian Ward, Laila Halaby, Youmna Chlala, and Alia Yunis; curated by Randa Jarrar.

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Posted in Poetry News on Wednesday, June 1st, 2011 by Harriet Staff.