by Hacker, Marilyn

In 2009, prompted by the Israeli siege of Gaza, Palestinian-American poet Deema Shehabi and Jewish-American poet Marilyn Hacker started a correspondence. This conversation by Californian based Deema and predominantly Paris based Marilyn was, not surprisingly, conducted thanks to electronic communication. Much more special was the fact that it took the form of responding, directly or obliquely, to each other’s poems. They continued their poetic dialogue until 2012. The result was a sequence of renga, a fascinating poetic conversation called Diaspo/Renga. The two poetic voices are beautifully meshed together, so that it actually reads as one long poem. The poetry is very rich in imagery, and these images stay with you, as do feelings the poems generate, for example of unrest, of being in exile. Television shows you the pictures in the streets, this poetry takes you into the homes and minds of people. You can read it very much between the lines, and therefore it seems to speak to people about their own experiences. Diaspo/Renga is a dignified celebration of humanity in and among atrocities. Although triggered by events in Gaza, it cleverly weaves in other conflicts past and present.

About the Author

Marilyn Hacker is the author of twelve books of poems, including Names (Norton, 2010), Essays on Departure (Carcanet Press,, 2006) and Desesperanto (Norton, 2003) and an essay collection; Unauthorized Voices (University of Michigan Press, 2010). Her twelve volumes of translations from the French include Marie Etienne’s King of a Hundred Horsemen (Farrar Strauss and Giroux, 2008) , which received the 2009 American PEN Award for Poetry in Translation, Emmanuel Moses’ He and I (Oberlin College Press, 2010), and Rachida Madani’s Tales of a Severed Head (Yale University Press, 2012). For her own work, she is a past recipient of the Lenore Marshall Award for Winter Numbers, the Poets’ Prize for Selected Poems, the National Book Award for Presentation Piece, an Award in Literature from the American Academy of Arts and Letters in 2004, the American PEN Voelcker Award for poetry in 2010, and the Argana International Poetry Prize from Morocco’s Bayt as-Sh’ir (House of Poetry) for 2011. She is a Chancellor of the Academy of American Poets. She lives in Paris, and is an editor of the journal Siecle 21. Deema K Shehabi is a poet, writer, and editor. The daughter of Palestinian parents, she grew up in the Arab world and moved to the United States in 1988. Her full collection Thirteen Departures From the Moon was published by Press 53 in 2011. She is also co-editor with Beau Beausoleil of Al-Mutanabbi Street Starts Here (PM Press), for which she received the Northern California Book Award’s NCBR Recognition Award. Deema’s poems have appeared widely in journals and anthologies and have been nominated four times for a Pushcart prize. She served as Vice-President for the Radius of Arab-American Writers (RAWI) between 2007 and 2010. She currently resides in Northern California with her husband and two sons.