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Young Iraqi Poets Writing in Arabic, Kurdish, and English Featured in New Book

Lanterns of Hope, a book featuring work from 22 emerging Iraqi writers, is now available in print and online. Cover image of Lanterns of Hope

Undertaken with the support of the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad, Lanterns of Hope was designed to showcase poetic talent across Iraq. The International Writing Program (IWP) at the University of Iowa and the Baghdad UNESCO City of Literature collaborated on this project, soliciting work from poets aged 16 to 23. Project mentors Ahmad Amani, Muna Fadhil, Sarhang Hars, Alana Marie Levinson-LaBrosse, Dunya Mikhail, Sadek Mohamed, and Soheil Najm convened in a digital space and read over 60 submissions during the selection process.

“The Lanterns of Hope mentors diligently went through all submissions and carefully selected the best of the best,” says Dr. Mohamed, who is also a professor at al-Mustansiriya University. “Lanterns of Hope is the kind of project that I expect to help create a new generation of young poets, strengthen their confidence in their talents at a very early age and immediately take them to the international level through translation and training. I am not hesitant to predict that many of the poets highlighted in this project will capably carry the promethean poetry fire into the future and add a new life to the Iraqi literary scene very soon.”

Each poem featured in the book appears in its original language—Arabic, Kurdish, or English—and in translation into the two other languages. The inclusion of the three languages highlights the diversity of language and culture within Iraq while transcending differences to provide a vision of unity and hope.

"Poets who come of age in a time of war may possess a special kind of knowledge, which informs their lives and writings,” says Christopher Merrill, director of the IWP. “Lanterns of Hope casts light on the experiences of a remarkable group of young Iraqi poets, whose work attempts to discern meaning of what from a distance may appear to be incomprehensible.”

Read Lanterns of Hope now on the IWP’s website. For those interested in purchasing a print edition or requesting a review copy, please submit a query here. Baghdad UNESCO City of Literature is supporting Lanterns of Hope for three additional seasons. Those interested in participating can receive project updates by following along on the Lanterns of Hope Facebook page.

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