On April 25, 2016 AUIS hosted a poetry-reading event that marked the release of the book Handful of Salt by Kurdish poet Kajal Ahmed. The book consists of a collection of poems that have been translated into English by former faculty member and chair of the AUIS English Department, Marie Labrosse, and AUIS alumnae Darya Ali and Mewan Nehro. Both Darya and Mewan were students of Marie Labrosse in a translation workshop taught at AUIS. Their journey started when the students had to submit projects for their class, and they found interest in translating Kajal Ahmed’s poems. “We were just talking about how important AUIS actually is, you start from something basic and before you know it, you have accomplished something really big, like this book,” said Mewan Nehro, who now studies at the Erasmus University at Rotterdam.
The event brought together AUIS and the University of Sulaimani to celebrate women’s achievements. Outside the hall where the reading took place, was an art exhibition by Gasha Kamal, a student at University of Sulaimani. There was also a beautiful Kurdish choir performance by students from the University of Sulaimani prior to the reading that included one of Kajal Ahmed’s poems adapted into a song. The book was sold at AUIS after the event, with all the proceeds going to the Yazda organization, an NGO aimed at supporting the Yezidi minority.
"Women and Kurdistan," Kajal Ahmed writes: "how similar we are, how/ strange"-- and how fortunate English-speaking readers are to have this selection of her poems, expertly translated and edited by Alana Marie Levinson-LaBrosse and her Kurdish students. Handful of Salt is a superb introduction to the work of an acclaimed Kurdish poet, whose chronicles of her walk in the sun mirror the complicated and tragic history of her people, in diverse forms and voices: "we're soil and soil, fire and fire,/ water and water, how heavy/ it is." But what a light these poems cast on everyone and everything. - Christopher Merrill, author of Boat.
The event was organized by the AUIS Center for Gender and Development Studies.
About Marie Labrosse
Marie LaBrosse, poet, translator, and former AUIS faculty member, translates classical and contemporary Kurdish poetry, hosts readings with regional poets, and introduced the annual translation workshop at AUIS. She is a NonResident fellow with the Institute of Regional and International Studies (IRIS). She received her M.F.A. from Warren Wilson College and her M.Ed. in English Education and B.A. in Political and Social Thought from the University of Virginia. She was awarded the Richard A. Meade Award for Excellence in English Education, honored as a member of the Raven Society, and was an Echols Scholar. She has been published in The Iowa Review, Words Without Borders, The Fair Observer, and 91st Meridian. She compiled and edited SoJust: An International Art Festival, an anthology of translations and interviews from American and Iraqi artists. She is a PhD candidate in Kurdish Studies at Exeter University.
Article contributed by Communications Intern Lana Jabbar.
Photos by student volunteers Rozhin Salah and Zhiwar Jawhar.