“It's all personal for me.”


Interviewed By: Kaveh Akbar

Can we start with you talking about what winning the Yale did for you, how that kicked off your writing life?

Can I say that I find myself in a strange moment where I don't know how to respond to these questions, really? I know what you mean by the question, so there's an almost scripted answer for it, insofar as the expectations of what language follows... you know what I mean?

I think so.

So I don't know… it was nice getting it? (Laughing) It was nice to have contact with Louise Glück; it's always good to have conversation with another poet at a deep and fundamental level. It's enriching for any writer to have that encounter. I think it's one of those things one can't honestly say what it did or did not do because you're considering the short span of time since then. Whatever answer one gives is bound to a materialist world.

You're constricted to the reality in which it did happen and it's hard to imagine one where it didn’t.

That's true, but I don't know what happened because of that either. Sure, it does give you some sort of attention or recognizability or something. But, I mean, is the question about the Yale, is the question about winning the prize, or what kind of prize, what really is your question about the Yale for, what is it a cover up for? What does is it signify?

Well, I think there's a way that poets who win the Yale get taxonomized as “Yale poets,” and I think you especially move to defy the taxonomization of your work whether in reference to being called a political poet or a Palestinian poet or, you know, a Yale poet. I can understand why you in particular would maybe take exception to the question. We can move on from this?

No, no, it's a conversation, I'm not irritated!

Right, I understand, but maybe we could move on to the first poem I wanted to talk about?

Sure, sure.

The poem, "Along Came A Spider," that was from Earth In The Attic, right?


So you take this story that's familiar to anyone who has been exposed to Islam or the teachings of Islam where, the spider web is fixed across the mouth of the cave hiding the prophet from his pursuers, and you sort of do this magic in your poetry where you turn it into this allegory about “displacement,” which kind of fits in the general tenor of the collection as a whole, of a lot of your work. You have these lines, “How did the prophet walk out of the cave? // I want to think he negotiated / with the spider first / before tearing its home with his camel stick.” So you're loading all this context of Islam, the contemporary world, and displacement, into the tiny space of this poem. Can you talk about that poem specifically—how it came to be, what you did from a craft standpoint? I also wanted to ask if was deliberately connected to “Mimesis” from Alight, which begins, “My daughter / wouldn't hurt a spider.”

It’s interesting to me to be asked about that poem because it is obviously the poem that the title of the book comes from. In various ways, The Earth And The Attic seems to… haunt me, the way one's book haunts one's sense of perception and reception by one’s readers. That poem is hardly ever brought up by anyone, despite being the poem that gives the book its title.

That’s interesting.

I don't think I can say more about the conception of the poem or the construction of it because it's, as you say, an allegory, and it's a work of comparative art, and there are too many ironies and narratives that one can draw out of it, particularly for someone who is a physician, in the cloth of the humanitarian, as well as a Palestinian, period. There’s this juxtaposition of being someone who comes from a donor society, the humanitarian who also happens to be a physician. That all seems very circular in the very small space that is presented to the reader—like, say the refugee camp where I was serving as a physician in Zambia.

    I mean, that for me is what the poem’s immediate setup is about. I don't know if I agree with you that most people who have any close interaction with Islam know about this unless they were Muslims. I don't think the spider’s is a story that is common to the sensibility of the English-speaking world, in the Western world of Islam. The narrative, the mythic or mystical narratives of Islam are almost not really allowed to enter deeper than the surface of one’s psyche, in America at least.

Even the way I tell or retell that narrative, I obviously propose new questions, as you say, with the idea of what happened. If one is to believe that this story happened, then what did happen to the spider? It would be an interesting mystical moment to examine away from our materialist reflexes, which is another way of saying scientific reflexes that we all have. It's not a big deal for the spider to lose its web—it will make another one, especially if this is a holy spider guided by a higher spirit. But I think I wanted to examine that, not to dismiss spirituality or the miracle, I wanted to pause longer, and I wanted to believe, along with others, that there is an alternative to the whole idea of displacement in the world, and living in displacement, and what it really is at an actual level, not just at a sort of a Freudian “civilization and its discontents” level.


So, it’s interesting that for me the poem returns in Alight, with my daughter and her bicycle handles. I don't really know if I ever told her the story in “Along Came a Spider.” I wonder, did she somehow internalize that and that's how it came out?

In her not wanting to kill spiders?

Yeah. I can't remember whether I did or didn't tell her the story, so it fascinates me that she is not necessarily rewriting me or rewriting that narrative but, I wonder, what if this came to her from another source? This is also a critique of the idea of mimesis or representation or originality—maybe this is something that came to her of her own sensibility, independent of anything to do with me.

It’s interesting to see that with the second poem, many more people respond more directly, for various reasons, maybe the brevity, maybe the sort of sentimentality of the people directly involved, a father and his child. “Mimesis” comes with a lot less baggage for most readers that don't have to go into the historical myths of our intransigent reflexes. “Along Came a Spider” becomes a poem that asks the reader to stand at the border of alienation in a way that “Mimesis” doesn't. There’s a comfort, a decoy in “Mimesis” that is not in its predecessor poem. I don't necessarily know what that really says about the way we often tend to dismiss foreign ideas of suffering, so to speak, and just sort of put them in a checklist, like a museum, or a product, or entertainment of some sort.

It’s also interesting that "Along Came a Spider" is a direct reference to the children sing-along that later returns to me in the voice of a child in "Mimesis." And on that note I’d like to point out that caterpillars and children make their way in the Attic and out of it into Alight later on, from “Surviving Caterpillars” to “The Very Hungry Caterpillar.” Perhaps it is also the aesthetic of amassing a private lexicon that is of importance here.

There’s clearly a lot to unpack in what you just said, but I want to go back to this idea that of the representation of the Abrahamic religions in our canon, we have millions of versions of Biblical narratives, through "Paradise Lost" and long before it. And there's the Midrashic traditions of Judaism, the retelling of Jewish stories. But, you're right in saying that in the Western literary canon, we don't have a lot of exposure to Islamic narratives, to the stories of Islam. You're one of the people living who's doing the most to buck that trend in terms of your work translating Darwish and Zaqtan, to bringing Arab voices to the western world. Can you talk about that a little bit?

I don't know if I'm doing the most or bucking any trend. But, before I speak to it, again, I have this reflex when I sort of hear the question you formulate: I wonder how many poets are asked such a question, a question so directly linked to really intense politics. The answer is that those who are asked such questions happen to be those who are placed in the margins of American-ness, in one way or another, or those who find themselves out of it entirely. I don't really know how one comes up with a smart answer that doesn't sound like some manifesto or a lecture that reifies the frame.

One can say that this whole troubled question or troubled notion of antecedents is what I think of when I hear your question: who came first, who spun out of the latter or the former? You have this materialistic relationship to time and Earth, between Judaism, Christianity and Islam, that is purely ideological, manufactured and often absurd. So, I can pardon, if you will, the paucity of Islamic humanizing, Islamic narrative within Western Christian narrative in particular, because of protracted historical events, wars and centuries and also the simple issue of, you know, Christianity considers Islam a heresy, Islam considers Christianity a righteous religion gone astray… These kinds of superiority dynamics are exhausting to lend one's voice to. So, I'm not so sure how to answer your question from that perspective. I think sometimes it's as simple as saying, “this is a simple human story.” It is no less bizarre than the veneration in Western Literature of Greek and Latin myths that have become a new God for us, literature's idea of return to polytheism as a more authentic notion of subjectivity perhaps.

You mention many of the Greek gods in Textu.

Yeah, sure, in fact I begin the book with a sequence of them in which I envision new juxtapositions to the history of literature, spirituality and archaeology of knowledge. It’s a way of paying homage but not without examination. Ariadne as a Sufi. Penelope as Scheherazade, for example.

But to go back to the question of literature as real estate, which is what antecedence is all about: I find it absurd and often too chauvinistic for my taste, because antecedence plagues us insofar as it serves our notions of superiority.

So in translation for example, I think that Darwish’s insistence on a history that is much older than, yet inclusive of, a Judeo-Christian-Islamic history or western history in the form of Greek and Roman, all these constructs, is a very important point. Darwish’s poetry often predates history as a way of breaking myth and obsessive notions of the self. It moves toward all directions. I will say that you'll be hard-pressed to find many authors who've performed that feat to the extent that Darwish has. I don't think that this aspect of his aesthetic has received the attention it deserves.

Again, you bring up a lot I’d like to talk about, but let's start with this struggle over real estate. In your work, you don't draw attention to the place names; you don't necessarily specify where a narrative is taking place. Can you talk about that decision, not clearly demarcating where the action of a poem is happening?

Well, there's a simple biographical way to answer this and say I never grew up with a particular place. I don’t necessarily fall in love with cities or towns. The only place that I felt I could belong to intensely was no longer there, was a place that had been dispossessed, a place that had transfigured in my parents’ hearts. Palestine, a place of memory and loss and grief for my parents and an entire web of family and people that I knew all my life, and so I think that place as non-place is still a kind of place, but it's a peculiar one.   Growing up in Benghazi, Libya, and in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, and then ending up back in the States—I learned that people have a wacky fascination with wanting to know where someone is from. As James Baldwin puts it: “But before that where were you born?” When one comes from a certain place, they come with a whole lexical glossary and many of us can't step outside that trap. As a Palestinian I was quite aware of it, especially in English, and I still am as an American poet. It’s sort of like a rabid dog at times. You can't let a soul pass by in America without a categorical bite into their identity. It’s maddening. I could only feel that I would commit a deeper sin of appropriation, more than the one I would already be committing, by the mere fact of writing about someone else’s suffering through my being a physician, a so-called western humanitarian. I felt my alibi was being a Palestinian and I wanted the absence or naming to be noticeable. It's really exhausting here. You can't wake up in America free of ethnicity, a predetermined manifest destiny that conveniently blames you for the feeling.

That’s fascinating.

It's really exhausting! Yet one of poetry's dances with languages is to negotiate this entrapment and illuminate it to some extent. After all, we live in a nation-state, which is a recent human construct, and I don't think enough attention is paid to the perils of such a thing, despite all of what we say. Even suffering has a classification and a hierarchy in America, often an ethnic or religious one, how vile is that? When I write, I just want to negotiate all of that, which I guess can drive one mad.

Right. My father is Persian, but has lived in the US since his twenties. He’s in his mid-sixties now. I remember growing up, people would ask him where he was from, and if he was in a certain mood, he’d give them a sincere look and say, "I don't remember.” It took me a couple decades to really unpack that.

  Exactly. It’s not just that you have to categorize somebody else; it's also that you have to declare yourself in a particular category in order to feel like you can move forward as recognizable, identifiable human being. And if you don’t, the default is a white psychology, so to speak, that you still have to prove you belong to. On sunny days it is all very comical. So you have to raise your hand in some kind of submission in order to navigate any category and have any kind of conversation. You have to repeat so much that has already been said and done as if it's a rite of passage that permit you entry to the machine before you can become necessary for its running, functioning, or become the illusion of that necessity.

I think what you're saying, this idea that you have to perform your taxonomy as a sort of ritual, I think that might become even more true with our online identities. We're growing increasingly aware of the way that we're representing ourselves.

I agree, I think it suits the status quo much more. It just gives a wonderful illusion of a difference as well as change. Again, subjectivity as falsely interchangeable with individuality and selfhood has become an app. I think Textu as an art project is entangled with that problem.

I do want to talk about Textu at length, but first, can we talk about your working as a physician-poet?

I feel like I want a different question about this, not a generic one, in order to help the narrative come out of me easier, you know? Because in a sense, you could sit there and say I'm hyper-conscious of being a physician because I think I'm ultimately (whether I like it or not) in a position of power as a physician in a capitalist society. As a physician, you’re financially more stable, there's a social and psychological strength and importance imparted to you, and I’m kind of still at odds with that, in a sense that it's never an idea I had of medicine or of being a physician. Also, let’s not dance around it, the question of the doctor-poet has an algorithmic answer to it: a conversation about healing, science, eros, thanatos, William Carlos Williams or Gottfried Benn, etc. It seems to only get worse with the passing of time. In the end, when you ask me that question, I have to address what it means to be a physician in empire and of it. It's not as simple as me just saying, “oh you know there are people who need pills, and we should really improve preventive medicine,” and all this kind of...


Right, boilerplate solution talk. It's hard for me as a Palestinian and it's hard for me, from the standpoint of the conversation of place and non-place that we talked about earlier, to just disappear into a transcendental miasma of the national ethos and come out a poet of healing or something. A lot of hard work has to be done before healing can take place.

We're sort of stuck in the point where science seems to say, “this is the only way for us to get to a point where we alleviate or attenuate suffering for mankind,” and you have to wonder if that really has been the case. You’ll have somebody tell you “yes, the average person now has a better lifespan than 100 years ago, before the development of antibiotics and vaccination.” And I don't really know what to make of that kind of materialistic answer. It's an answer that ties everything to not a quality of life but a quantity of it. Death is not the worst thing that can happen to you. So when we have a life where death is not the worst thing that can happen to many people, it's a problem of the materialist way of thinking of progress, a hegemonic way. “Did you save a life today? If yes, go through this door.” It’s the kind of thinking that dehumanizes the millions of people who are killed or die daily meaninglessly.

That mistrust of that idea of an easily quantifiable progress comes across in your work. One of my favorite poems in Alight, “Twice a River,” has a speaker talking to his son, saying, “love no country / and hate none and remember crimes sometimes // immortalize their victims, / other times the victimizer.” That's a line that you're sort of taking this very zoomed in view of the speaker’s relationship with his family, but then in the space of a stanza you're contrasting that with a line like “love no country / and hate none,” which is this huge statement of geopolitical reality and awareness of being a citizen of empire, a citizen of displacement.

“Twice a River” is one of my favorite poems, it's very dear to me and this notion of “love no country and hate none” is also about the agony I recognized as a child coming into a world that was imposed on me, the suffering you had to carry with you, which so many others have carried along with them and passed down on to you. How could it be that one’s humanity is tied to a map? You see it at various tragic, absurd, demonic levels in so many. Even the nomad, the exile are subjugated to the world of maps and nation-states.

That’s interesting.

Think of the new collection of Rosemary Tonks, the British poet who disappeared from the limelight, just didn't want anything to do with it. She died and Bloodaxe put out her unpublished works and old poems and called it Bedouin of The London Evening.   I don't know if the title is a line from her poems or not but why a “Bedouin in London”? It's like saying, “Red Indian of the New York Breakfast.” In their near disappearance the vanquished offer us exoticism, catchiness. In their hopeless belonging to our plagued modernity, the noble savage is our unattainable mysticism. Not to mention that our literary machine is starved for discovery of the next Emily Dickinson, a game of defeating death through a life after death. People become relics. Bedouins are being ethnically cleansed in Israel, and Bedouins in the African Sahara are constantly under threat of disintegration from all the societies that surround them. So "Bedouin of the London Evening"? And this goes on in anthologies about war and in the celebratory necropolitics of war poets. It would be easy for me to just write about being a doctor in a decontextualized manner, concerned mostly with the patient at hand, a submissive form of mindfulness.

Right. You can use the scaffolding to move yourself from the margins of American-ness, to borrow your phrase, but it wouldn’t necessarily be coming from a place of sincerity.

Exactly, and thank you for rephrasing my words better there. But “sincerity” is a plagued word in poetry, isn’t it?

Haha. I mean, it's difficult. This conversation has given me a lot to think about, in terms of how I'm coming into these interviews. Obviously, you know I have a sincere love for your work, and it's hard for me to divorce my identity as a Persian-American from knowing that we have some degree of a shared cultural experience. It's hard for me to separate the way I’d appreciate your writing in a vacuum from the way I appreciate your dealing with these cultural and philosophical items from the Muslim world, from the relative scarcity of those experiences in American poetry.

Right, I know. I just wonder at which point do we start to have that different conversation, you know? (Laughing) When will I stop repeating myself? Maybe it is my own failure. I'm taking you on a wild ride here, making this interview probably a nightmare for you.

No, no this is going much more interestingly than what I’d imagined in my notes. I have no idea how it’s going to turn out when I transcribe it, but so far it's one of the most exciting conversations I’ve had about poetry in a while.

  It’s just that so little about a book’s reception has to do with art. It has a lot to do with the ethnopolitics of art, and yet somehow when the politics are brought up, they're brought up as the burden of the one who suffers from them or the one who receives them, not the one who dishes them out. No one talks to a white poet and says, “How do you feel about your complicity in indirectly fucking so many people over?”

Haha. We don’t do that.

Of course we don’t. And if and when one does, one is in the box, a penalty box, as if art were a game of hockey.

Hah. Well, that sort of brings us to another thing I wanted to talk about, how some of your poems are very funny. I think that often gets ignored when people are discussing about your poems with these political narratives. One of my favorite poems is “Holy Numbers,” where there are these lines throughout, like “I become a unionist on a confederate task,” “Two Earths, one inhabited by humans, diagnoses the other with severe eczema,” and then “A pack of cigarettes / a month is a wine glass a day.” Those are really funny lines. There are those throughout Textu too. Can you talk about using humor as a tool, one of the techniques in your arsenal?

You know it's actually an interesting question about irony and humor. Whether you choose to invoke Twain or Voltaire or what have you, a heritage of sorts. And then, there's just the simplicity of it being a natural element of language. Metaphor and irony develop off each other and irony sometimes compresses meaning or places it in its beautiful frame of disintegration. It's necessary, I think, in writing contemporary work. As Walter Benjamin wrote, to just perform a “disintegration of aura.”

I think it's also this notion about breaking one’s stereotype through humor. I'm very aware that the examples you mentioned are products of the stereotypes by which I'm largely pegged. It delights me a lot that you bring up the satire in “Holy Numbers.” Not many pick up on it. It is easier to pick up on the “Angry Arab” part and perpetuate it, elevate it into the “serious man doctor” at best. Yet “Holy Numbers” is what I call an American poem.

How do you mean that?

There are two long sequences in the book in Alight, and people do seem to really like the “After” sequence.   You ask yourself a question about comparing one to the other, the reception of one to the other, especially since they're both written with different themes in mind and different diction. In that sense, “Holy Numbers” rubs elbows with pop culture far more than “After” does, and that’s what I mean by the American-ness of it. But am I expected to write “Americana”? Yale or no Yale, let’s be honest.

That makes sense.

“Holy Numbers” moves in seven sections and ends with spiritual transcendence sorts. Also a satire, perhaps of the metaphysical.

Yeah! You talked earlier about how you wanted your poem to be read more as spiritual arrivals than as political statements and for me “Holy Numbers,” especially in that last sequence where you're talking about, “I play a prophet Cabernet,” “Then come visions and numinous visitations,” that reads to me like a sort of spiritual arrival.

Thank you! That's sort of the happiest news of the day for me. There is levity in spiritual arrivals also.


Yeah, and you know right before that final section…

The dialogue between the two earths?

Right, the two earths, the eczema and the garlic and the watermelon and all that stuff. It tucks in a lot of cultural items. You know, the garlic and the watermelon, for instance, is a joke in Arabic, it's like an idiomatic joke and it's about mocking vanity. Then along comes Pink Panther and saves the day.


It's all personal for me. It’s the refusal to accept subjectivity as pretext for subjugation. I could tell you personal insight into the book. For example, “Tenor” has something to do with children in Gaza. I have a lot of family in Gaza, cousins and uncles who have children and who, on the rare occasion that I speak with them, tell me how their children suffer. Their hearts are broken because their children are growing up under Israeli terror. I wrote as much about this in the Best American Poetry, and linked the poem to Oppen’s brilliant “Semite” where he demands that we “think of the children.”

But the children do not belong only in Gaza. I don’t find the need to declare Gaza, to name a place. Even Gaza now becomes a safe reflex for those of us who prefer to sigh. Gaza becomes a logo of suffering to be consumed by the “witness” poets of the western world, if and when the poem that mentions Gaza is not frowned upon for its “politics.” Are Iraq and Gaza in “Holy Numbers,” the “funny” poem? They are. They begin it.

I’m looking at it now, “Come the season a helicopter will / Release the little prince’s enuresis.”

Yeah, and enuresis actually makes a second appearance in my work, as I have it in “An American Spandrel” in The Earth in The Attic. But anyway, just to tell you that one of my cousins actually has enuresis from growing up as a seven-year-old in Gaza. If you slam the door by mistake, she will have a startled reflex, and sometimes she will pee in her pants. Le petit princess with PTSD who gets none of the limelight that soldiers, sanctioned killers with PTSD, get when they survive their trauma through literature.

God. That's horrible. The form of the poems transform as the collection progresses too, as if in response to their content...

This is why the poems are shaped the way they are, without punctuation. The lack of punctuation offers the only illusion of structural coherence. I use virgules now and then. It disturbed some readers because my use of the virgule did not abide by an easily recognizable pattern, not enslaved in the geometry of diction. But that’s why there is this seeming looseness in the book as you move towards the familial, towards “Birth.”

Sure, loose especially contrasted with the tautness of the early poems. That might be a good bridge to Textu, and the decision to write a book of poems where each is exactly 160 characters.

Right. We’ve reached a moment where many of us have already forgotten that the limit of a text message is 160 characters.   When you mention character count now, lots of people start confusing the SMS with Twitter, and I have to correct them and say, “No, Twitter is 140 characters including the hashtag.” The idea is not in the number, however, as much as it is in the meter: character count as a new meter for our language. It’s an inescapable reality by now, our language governed by scientific and market forces. It’s an interesting moment, why I insisted on 160. Most people have unlimited texting. Few worry about writing a message in 161 characters. You're not going to get billed for it. It's unlimited texting, it's a flat fee. The idea of the poems’ meter already becomes tied to capitalist market through that conversation or in that light, literally the light of the Smartphone screen.

Moreover, the irony of it is that it’s an expression of our wealth. In other parts of the world, many if not most people pay per text, and there are still people in the US who have limited texting, people who need to worry about their character count. So to use character count is also a reflection of this sort of market economy translation of life in our time, the differences between those who have and those who don't. It is also an elegy of sorts. With all these apps for communication popping up, Viber and Whatsapp etc, to satiate our voracious appetite for the unlimited.

I think that the SMS is more private for poetry. Twitter is sort of like spitting something out in the wind. It's a different art form. There are those who have mastered it as well, like Teju Cole or...

Patricia Lockwood.

Exactly. So it would be interesting to sort of link that conversation about Textu to the art of Twitter feed in the hands of somebody like Cole or Lockwood. I chose to do something that emphasized the intimacy and privacy of the matter or medium, which is also a reflection of the contemporary poem and its limitation as well. I shared most of the poems in Textu with friends as soon as I wrote them. I would send the text messages with light and sound that announce a language you're not used to receive in a text message.

It’s interesting to think of that physical, sensory element.

And I was in a moment where I wanted to write, frankly. I was hungry for writing. I had just done the Lannan residency in Marfa for about two months and I didn't write one single Textu. I wrote a lot and read a lot and it was an amazing experience, and when I came back from it to go back to my life, I found myself very quickly just uncontrollably seeking to remain in touch with that energy of language, and the Smartphone presented itself. A friend of mine alerted me, sarcastically, and said, “What are you writing, haikus?” And basically, it came from our communications, just communicating with a friend from work.

It’s interesting, the process of Textu continued for almost an entire year, from December to December. Sometimes it felt like a Jackson Pollack drip painting. I didn’t call it that, but it was almost like a translation of my physical being, the idea of grabbing the phone, writing, counting, editing down to the character count… The “and” becomes an ampersand, or sometimes is switched to “or” to reduce the count, etc. All this idea of creation that really opens up onto a world without me being inauthentic, you know? Textu is not cute or a gimmick.

Right. What’s remarkable to me about the collection are the moments of real poetry you have regardless of cell phones or character counts. I'm looking at “Revolution 1” right now and it’s got the ending, “Do I know what democracy is / watching another seek it // Amazing grace / sweet tooth ache.” You have these weird little associative frictions, but then they're being paired with the sonics, the assonance of the “amazing grace / sweet toothache,” and the effect is just interesting poetry, regardless of the conceit of the poems. You talk about your revision and editing process and I'm wondering how much of these poems came out in their first drafts, as texts, and how much was chipped away at later.

Yeah! Sometimes I pumped a few of them out spontaneously and they turned out to be exactly 160 characters at first asking. Like I said, it became such a physical translation of my being, an embodiment. I just existed in that rhythm. It was like crafting a wooden ship or something to take into the sea. And it was exhilarating, though eventually it came to be maddening after a year. I don't know if I would even consider the thought of putting myself in that physical state again.

I would imagine you needed a recharge period.

Yes. And so much of it was my paying attention differently to sounds and sentences and ideas that came floating through my mind or through the mouths of others. Sometimes driving to work, I'd be beginning a textu and as soon as I got to the office or the hospital or clinic or wherever, I would type it out and find out, “oh, it's 120 characters, 40 more to think about.” I would get these fragments and work on them. (Laughing) There were times when I would go to horrendous corporate medical meetings, and as a way to survive them, I would come out with three or four textus in a two-hour meeting, just because I couldn't listen to a word of that jargon.

To finish up, could you talk a little bit about what you’re working on now? Translations, new poems...?

I always write poems and dabble in translation. I am also working with prose now, a non-fiction perhaps. But most importantly, I am really trying to understand a conversation with silence. I think my frustration with questions of politics and medicine, ethnicity and healing, etc, leaves me little choice but to change the conversation.

Interview Posted: February 2, 2015


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