The Olive Reading Series is very pleased present Iman Mersal, our first reader of our twelfth season!
Date: Tuesday 11 September 2012
Time: 7:00pm Reading
Location: Empress Ale House
Address: 9912 82 Avenue, Edmonton
Iman Mersal is an Assistant Professor in Middle Eastern and African Studies and in the Department of Modern Languages and Cultural Studies at the University of Alberta. Her work has appeared in The Blackbird, The American Poetry Review, “Parnassus,” and Paris Review. Mersal’s work has been translated into English, French, German, Spanish, Dutch and Italian. These are not Oranges, My Love, a selection of Mersal’s work translated into English by Khaled Mattawa, was published by Sheep Meadows in New York in 2008.
“The feeling you get when you are writing a poem is different to any other feeling,” Iman Mersal says.
“You feel your being is in the making or something. You are very involved in everything around you and yet you are completely alienated. It’s a mood. I can feel it in advance.”…
Mersal is one of Edmonton’s best-kept literary secrets. The renowned Egyptian poet has lived here since 1999, teaches while raising two boys and traveling the world to read at poetry events.
“She is definitely one of the best Arab poets of her generation,” says Walid El Khachab, an Arabic professor at York University. “She’s one of the most original, one of the most quoted, one of the most spoken about.” “When you think of the most prominent female Canadian novelist, you think of Margaret Atwood,” El Khachab says. “When I ask myself the same question about Arabic poetry, I automatically think of Iman.”
Mersal was born Nov. 30, 1966 in the village of Mit Adlan, in northern Egypt. She began writing stories at an early age as a way of remembering her mother, who died at age twenty-seven, when Iman was only seven. Mersal published her first poem when she was 16. She studied Arabic literature at university, first in Mansoura, then Cairo, all the while publishing poetry in the country’s leading literary journals.
Her second book, A Dark Alley Suitable For Dance Lessons epitomized the experimental style and intimate focus of young Egyptian writers. Mersal is part of what’s known in the Arabic world as the Nineties generation, a groundbreaking movement of young men and women “writing about themselves, about personal experiences, about details instead of about big social or political issues,” says El Khachab. Her writing made waves because it was mature and challenged the traditional esthetics of poetry, El Khachab says. It talked subtly about private, intimate matters, like sexuality, a taboo for female writers at the time. The work was original, deeply funny. “The intensity of the humour and cynicism was definitely new in poetry,” he says.“I like her absolute literary integrity, her seriousness and her independence of mind”
. . .
Mersal’s work “manages to be personal without being excessively confessional. … The word integrity keeps coming to my mind.” –Bert Almon
Did she pull her hair from the tines of her comb, afraid of black magic or fire, or the neighbors’ mischief?
My mother’s hair slithers out, a gift, a punishment.
What binds us now? -an excerpt from “They Tear Down My Family Home”–
(some material was taken from Elizabeth Withey’s article in The Edmonton Journal, July 6th, 2012)