Iraqi Nights, The

by Dunya Mikhail

In The Iraqi Nights, the acclaimed Iraqi poet Dunya Mikhail personifies the role of Scheherazade in the Thousand and One Nights, who saves herself through the telling of tales. Unlike Scheherazade, Mikhail isn’t writing to escape death but to confront it through grief and love while summoning the strength to endure. Though the nights are dark in this haunting collection, seemingly as endless as war, the poet cannot stop dreaming of a future beyond the violence, of a country where “every moment / something ordinary / will happen under the sun.” Mikhail threads her vivid illustrations of ancient Sumerian tablets and her handwritten Arabic through an imaginative sequence of haiku-like poems providing a powerful visual counterpoint.