Friday, May 09, 2008

Day in the Life of a Poet: Baghdad

This came just now from Soheil Najm, who has been translating Iraqi poets into English in an effort to introduce his people to the West. I can publish it here. It is a small thing in the face of such horror.

Dear Susan,

A horrible thing happened put me in hell since the 23rd of April. It was so difficult for me to write about it.

In the early morning of that day the gangsters, terrorists of "Almehdis" kidnapped my brother, a shop keeper, age 43, who has 6 children and a Haj, and called me from his own mobile wanting $400000 or else they would kill him. I wonder how could they convince themselves, or their followers, that this is the way by which religion goes? Through contemptible negotiations three or four times a day they began their blackmail by letting us hear his cries or his calling for help and for giving them what they ask for. They pretended that they wanted the money to buy weapons to struggle against the American occupation! In another time they said they wanted the money to fix the shrine of Imam Abbas!

It was impossible for my family to get or collect this sum of money. Time froze and my very old father got sick. We had nothing to do but to try to lessen the sum to amount we can pay. It was really a war of nerves. At last, after a week of torture, we reached at agreement with them to release him for $45000, and we obliged to sell many things from our house, including my own car.

You can't imagine his view at the moment when they threw him, blindfold for a week, in a dark place. We found him trembling like a wet little bird. They treated him so badly, they beat him violently and every time and then they but the gun on his head threatening to shoot him, although they knew very well he is an innocent poor man, a believer and from their own sect. You can easily conclude that they are gangsters who don't have any believe and values, extremists forming the other face of al-Qaida.

The most critical hours were those when I put the ransom beside a tree for them and waited 12 hours to see my brother safe. Of course we failed to convince the terrorists that we may receive the prisoner at the moment we submit the ransom. They were afraid of an ambush we may plan.

The pity is that the Iraqi police and the American forces could not hand us any help and they were really just watching from far although we inform them every thing including the mobile numbers from which they can find the place of the terrorists. I am just asking who is responsible for horrible chaos the Iraqis live in: The Iraqi innocent people, the CIA, The Pentagon, the Irani Intelligence (Itlaat), al-Qaeda , Syria , Saudia the earth , the sky...who for God sake?

* Poet and translator, Soheil Najm, was born in Baghdad in 1956. He has published two collections of poems: Breaking the Phrase, Beirut: Dar Al-Kunuz Al-Adabiyah,1994, and Your Carpenter, O, Light, Damascus: Dar Ninewa, 2002. He has also translated and published more than ten literary works. He lives now in Baghdad.

Tonight: an anti-war poetry reading at MonkeyWrench books in Austin, 7:30 pm.
Here is the write up MonkeyWrench sent out:

Madeleine Mysko will read from, Bringing Vincent Home, a Vietnam-era novel told by the mother of a soldier who returns home with serious burns. A real and riviting protrayal of the burn ward vicitms and their families.

H. Palmer Hall will read from Coming to Terms, a collection of autobiographical essays with focus on his experiences during the Vietnam War.

Susan Bright will read from The Layers of Our Seeing and from the translation work of Soheil Najm.

Madeleine Mysko is a registered nurse and a graduate of The Writing Seminars of The Johns Hopkins University, where she now teaches in the Advanced Academic Programs. Her poems and prose have appeared in The Hudson Review, Shenandoah, Bellevue Literary Review, The Baltimore Sun, and American Journal of Nursing. Her poetry is collected in Crucial Blue (Rager Media). Her novel, Bringing Vincent Home (Plain View Press), is based on her experiences as an Army nurse on the burn ward at Fort Sam Houston during the Vietnam War.

H. Palmer Hall is the author of six books and chapbooks. He is also the library director at St. MaryĆ­s University in San Antonio, Texas, where he teaches English and serves as the director of Pecan Grove Press.

You can read more about these books at:

Friday, May 9th
7:30 pm
MonkeyWrench Books
110 E. North Loop (78751)
512) 407-6925

Earthfamily Principles
Earthfamilyalpha Content IV
Earthfamilyalpha Content III
Earthfamilyalpha Content II
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Blogger Unknown said...

Thank you, Susan, for sharing this moving and urgent piece. I'd like to pass it on, but can't find the link on YouTube.

Heather Thomas

7:06 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

In answer to Heather's question the video is titled Baghdad, 5 years on --
there are three parts
I will post other parts in the future
it is very moving indeed

8:26 AM  
Blogger oZ said...

FYI,If you double click on a youtube embedded video, it goes to the video in You Tube.

4:30 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Soheil sent me the same letter and I feel great empathy for him. I sent Soheil's letter to all the editors I knew but this was only Susan Bright who gave it such a beautiful title: Day in the Life of a Poet: Baghdad. Bravo to you.Please publish my view on earthfamilyalpha. I can't post myself.


Farideh Hasanzadeh

2:27 PM  

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