Two celebrated Arab-American poets to read at Fairfield University as part of "The Arab-American Experience


Image: Nathalie HandalPoets D.H. Melhem and Nathalie Handal will read from their work and that of other Arab-American poets, including Khalil Gibran and Mikhail Nuaymah, on Thursday, Sept. 18, at Fairfield University. The reading, which is free and open to the public, will take place in the Oak Room of the Barone Campus Center at 7:30 p.m.

The poetry reading is the first of four events planned for "The Arab-American Experience," a series considering the art, culture and politics of the Arab-American population. Fairfield University's Humanities Institute is sponsoring the events.

In her nearly 30-year career as a published writer, Melhem has written six books of poetry, a novel, a musical drama, a creative writing workbook and more than 50 essays and critical works. Her new collection, "Conversations with a Stonemason," (IKON, 2003) considers love, war, politics, nature, divorce and heritage, and contains a major cycle of four poems about the World Trade Center tragedy. In her most recent poems, Melhem's extraordinary range and depth is matched by her deep concern for social justice and peace.

"D.H. Melhem is one of our brilliant contemporary talents," acclaimed poet Gwendolyn Brooks has said. "As a writer she is serious, fervent, meticulous. She possesses one of the most remarkable minds of our time."

Born to Lebanese immigrants in Brooklyn, N.Y., Melhem began writing at age D.H. Melhem8 and was class poet of her high school class. She holds a bachelor's degree at New York University, an M.A. from City College and a Ph.D. from the City University of New York. She has served on the faculty of Long Island University and The New School for Social Research.

Melhem draws her poems from her own experiences and those of the world. Her early collections, "Notes on 94th Street" (The Poet's Press, 1972) and "Children of the House Afire," (Dovetail Press, 1976) were both inspired by her life on Manhattan's Upper West Side, while her most recent works include musings on the nature of marriage, the life of an Ethiopian child and travels in Switzerland.

As a scholar, Melhem has published several critical works, including "Heroism in the New Black Poetry" (UPK, 1990), which won an American Book Award in 1991. She is a member of many literary organizations and is the vice-president of the International Women's Writing Guild.

Nathalie Handal has lived in the United States, Europe, the Caribbean and Latin America and has traveled extensively in the Middle East. Those experiences color her work and her worldview. A poet, author, playwright, editor and literary researcher, she won the Pen Oakland/Josephine Miles Award as the editor of "The Poetry of Arab Women: A Contemporary Anthology" (Interlink, 2000). The Bloomsbury Review called "The Poetry of Arab Women" a "highly-charged, stunning anthology."

Born to Palestinian parents of mixed religious background, Handal has long been interested in heritage and the perception of Arab-Americans. Her poem, "War" has been incorporated into a theater production, "Lost Recipes," a resistance piece that combines the voices of Arab-American and Jewish-American women writers. She is also represented in the recent anthology, "110 Stories: New York Writes After September 11."

Handal received both her bachelor's and master's degrees from Simmons College and holds a MFA in Creative Writing and Literature from Bennington College. She finished her post-graduate studies in English and Drama at the University of London. Handal, who teaches at Hunter College, has taught creative writing workshops worldwide and was chair of the Pushkin Club, London.

Published in several literary magazines, she wrote a collection of poems, "The NeverField," (The Post-Apollo Press, 1999) and created "Traveling Rooms" (ASC Records, 1999), a CD of her poetry set to improvisational music.

"The Arab-American Experience" at Fairfield University also includes the following events: a lecture by civil rights attorney Abdeen Jabara, Oct. 2; a concert by Simon Shaheen and members of Qantara, Oct. 16; and a screening of the film, "Caught in the Crossfire," Nov. 13. All events are free and will take place at 7:30 p.m. in the Oak Room.

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Media Contact: Nancy Habetz, (203) 254-4000, ext. 2647, nhabetz@fairfield.edu

Posted on September 3, 2003

Vol. 36, No. 43