Blues shares with war poetry, especially that of World War I, the sense
of underlying shock and horror at the human cruelty and waste. But,
Antoon’s poetry is more nightmarish. It starts with enormous
schizophrenic intimations of a self caught between repression, fear,
and resignation under a dictatorial role, to end up amid scenes of
horror that have become the legacy of the 2003 invasion and occupation.
Sinan Antoon’s Blues snatches its images from among metal, armor,
deserted places, explosions, to build up an identity for an Iraqi soul
in a world which is drifting fast into horror which Joseph
Conrad-Kurtz’ cry cannot fathom or reach. As befitting the title, sound
summons its power from everything in Iraq: from the dictatorial decrees
and their demand for appreciative applause, to the air, sea, and land
bombardments and explosions. The agonized soul has to cope up with
these by its music, its beats of the heart as it perceives all from a
hole somewhere, a hole that might offer a glimpse, perhaps of hope,
that the poet calls Baghdad Blues."
About Sinan Antoon
Sinan Antoon's teaching and research interests lie in pre-modern Arabo-Islamic culture and contemporary Arab culture and politics. His dissertation, "The Poetics of the Obscene," is the first study of the 10th-century Arab poet Ibn al-Hajjaj. His poems and essays (in Arabic) have appeared in as-Safir, al-Adab, and Masharef and in the Nation, Middle East Report, Al-Ahram Weekly, Banipal, Journal of Palestine Studies, World Literature Today, and Ploughshares, among others. He has published a collection of poems, The Baghdad Blues (Harbor Mountain Press, 2007) and a novel, I'jaam: An Iraqi Rhapsody (City Lights, 2007), which has been translated into German, Norwegian, Portuguese, and Italian. His poetry was anthologized in Iraqi Poetry Today and in Inclined to Speak: Arab-American Poetry. His cotranslation of Mahmoud Darwish's poetry was nominated for the PEN Prize for translation in 2004 and his translation of Darwish's last prose book, In the Presence of Absence, is forthcoming from Archipelago Books in 2010. He returned to his native Baghdad in 2003 as a member of InCounter Productions to codirect a documentary, About Baghdad, about the lives of Iraqis in a post-Saddam-occupied Iraq. He is on the advisory board of Arab Studies Journal, a contributing editor to Banipal, and a member of the editorial committee of Middle East Report. In 2008 and 2009, he was a post-doctoral fellow at the EUME (Europe in the Middle East - The Middle East in Europe) program at the Wissenschaftskolleg zu Berlin. Antoon has appeared on NPR, al-Jazeera English, and The Charlie Rose Show.