STEEP TEA: Suzan Alaiwan

I was introduced to the poetry of Suzan Alaiwan (also spelled Suzanne Alaywan) by the editors Kate Rogers and Viki Holmes in their world poetry anthology Not a Muse: The Inner Lives of Women (Haven Books, Hong Kong). "Suzan Alaiwan was born in Beirut in 1974 to a Lebanese father and an Iraqi mother. Because of the war, she spent her adolescence in Andalus, Paris, and Cairo. She graduated in 1997 from the faculty of Journalism and Media in the American University of Cairo. Now she is living in Beirut."

She writes in Arabic. Her poems in the anthology are characterized by an appealing gnomic wisdom. In "Poems," she wrote, as translated by Sayed Gouda, "When we stumble over a stone, / it guides us." The line played in my mind for quite a while. I wanted to respond to it both playfully and seriously, so I took the words "stumble," "stone" and "guides" and spun variations on them, and wrote my "Fall: Five Poems." It was first published by Pirene's Fountain as "Five Poems." You can find it on-line.

At the time, influenced by the short Japanese forms, I was writing a lot of one-line poems. I was pleased to discover that Suzan Alaiwan, who is also a painter, acknowledges the inspiration of Japanese art. She posts her art on a blog, and many of her works are accompanied by short poems. The art, faux-naïf in style, glows with candy colors. The photo of her is from her blog. She has published ten books of poems since 1994. A prolific artist!


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