DUNYA MIKHAIL: “PASSPORT”

Now an American citizen, an Iraqi poet on Saddam Hussein’s enemies list reflects on what it means to create art, a new life and a new identity.

Aired on January 7, 2018.

TRANSCRIPT

> IRAQI POET CAME TO AMERICA AFTER LEARNING SHE WAS ON A LIST OF ENEMIES BEING MONITORED BY SADDAM HUSSEIN.

SHE BECAME AN AMERICAN CITIZEN IN 2007, AND SINCE THEN SHE HAS CALLED HERSELF AN IRAQI AMERICAN.

SHE SAYS SHE HAS EARNED THAT HYPHEN, WHICH SEES AS AN EXPRESSION OF HER TWO CULTURES AND TWO NATIONALITIES.

MIKAEL REFLECTS ON WHAT IT MEANS TO WRITE POETRY AND TO ADOPT A NEW LIFE AND IDENTITY.

I KEPT, ALTHOUGH IT'S EXPIRED, YOU KNOW.

BUT THE REASON THAT I'LL ALWAYS KEEP THAT, IT'S UNIQUE.

IT SAYS THAT MY PROFESSION IS A POET.

THOUGH IT'S EXPIRED, I WILL ALWAYS KEEP IT.

IT SAYS HERE EXPIRED ON MAY 19th, '94.

AND THAT'S THE TIME, THE DAY I LEFT MY COUNTRY.

BEING A POET, YOU DON'T NEED A LEAVE OF ABSENCE FROM ANYWHERE.

I STARTED TO THINK OF MYSELF AS A POET FIRST IN HIGH SCHOOL.

AND THEN THE COLLEGE I HAD MY FIRST BOOKPUBLISHED.

THAT WAS IN BAGHDAD.

IT WAS NOT MY INTENTION TO MAKE PEACE, CHANGE THE WORLD.

THAT WAS NOT MY GOAL.

I DON'T BELIEVE POETRY HAS THESE TYPE OF TASKS.

BEFORE COMING HERE, I DON'T EVEN THINK ABOUT THE TRANSLATION OR ENGLISH.

THEN I REALIZED THIS LANGUAGE ISSUE THAT YOU HAVE NOT ONLY THE BEING, THE MEMORIES, BUT ALL OF YOUR LANGUAGE.

WHEN YOU WRITE A POEM IN YOUR LANGUAGE, YOU WRITE IT ONE TIME.

AND THEN YOU THINK INTO OTHER LANGUAGE AND TRY TO WRITE A POEM IN THE OTHER LANGUAGE, I FEEL AS IF IT'S A NEW FORM.

THEY SAY LOST IN TRANSLATION, BUT ALSO THINGS FOUND IN TRANSLATION.

I BECAME AMERICAN CITIZEN IN THE YEAR 2007.

AND I EARNED THAT HYPHEN.

NOW I BECAME IRAQI-AMERICAN.

AND CONTEMPLATING LOOKING AT THAT, I WAS THINKING THAT HYPHEN, I ALWAYS THINK OF IT.

AND IT LOOKS LIKE SUBTRACTION, BUT IT'S ACTUALLY A PLUS IN RETAIL IT ADDS TO YOU.

WHEN PEOPLE ASK ME ARE YOU GOING TO GO BACK, I FEEL IT'S A STRANGE QUESTION, AS IF I HAVE TO GO BACK TO A DREAM.

AND SOMETIMES YOU FEEL LIKE WAS IT YOU REALLY THAT YOU WERE IN THAT PLACE?

DID YOU SEE ALL THAT?

WILL I SEE WHAT I KNOW?

WILL I KNOW WHAT I SEE?

REALLY, I FEEL AS IF I WOKE UP FROM THAT LIFE.

PEOPLE SAY EXILE THEY CALL IT.

BUT MAYBE THIS IS FOR ME IF I HAVE TO CALL IT EXILE, THEN MAYBE I WOULD EXILE.

♪♪

Funders

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