Born in Istanbul, Turkey, to Iranian parents, Solmaz Sharif is the author of the poetry collection LOOK (Graywolf Press, 2016), a finalist for the National Book Award and the PEN Open Book Award and the winner of the 2017 American Book Award for poetry.
The Q&A following this event will be moderated by Lena Khalaf Tuffaha, the author of the poetry collection Water & Salt (Red Hen Press, 2017), and Arab in Newsland (Two Sylvias Press, 2017).
Solmaz Sharif holds degrees from the University of California, Berkeley, where she studied and taught with June Jordan’s Poetry for the People, and New York University. Her first published poem, included in A World Between: Poems, Short Stories, and Essays by Iranian-Americans (George Braziller, 1999), was written at the age of 13. Her work has appeared in Poetry, the Kenyon Review, jubilat, Gulf Coast, Boston Review, Witness, and other publications.
Solmaz Sharif’s astonishing first book, LOOK, asks us to see the ongoing costs of war as the unbearable loss of human lives and the insidious abuses against our everyday speech. In this virtuosic array of poems, lists, shards, and sequences, Sharif assembles her family’s and her own fragmented narratives in the aftermath of warfare. Those repercussions echo into the present day, in the grief for those killed in America’s invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq, and in the discrimination endured at the checkpoints of daily encounter.
At the same time, these poems point to the ways violence is conducted against our language. Throughout this collection are words and phrases lifted from the Department of Defense Dictionary of Military and Associated Terms; in their seamless inclusion, Sharif exposes the devastating euphemisms deployed to sterilize the language, control its effects, and sway our collective resolve. But Sharif refuses to accept this terminology as given, and instead turns it back on its perpetrators. “Let it matter what we call a thing,” she writes. “Let me look at you.”
The former managing director of the Asian American Writers’ Workshop, Sharif has had her work recognized with a “Discovery”/Boston Review Poetry Prize, scholarships from NYU and the Bread Loaf Writers’ Conference, and fellowships from the Fine Arts Work Center, the Rona Jaffe Foundation, and the National Endowment for the Arts. A former Stegner Fellow at Stanford University, Sharif is the recipient of a 2016 Lannan Literary Fellowship and the Holmes National Poetry Prize from Princeton University. In 2017, she received the PEN Center Literary Award for Poetry. In 2014, Sharif was awarded a Ruth Lilly and Dorothy Sargent Rosenberg Poetry fellowship from the Poetry Foundation. She is currently a Jones Lecturer at Stanford University.
Lena Khalaf Tuffaha is an American writer of Palestinian, Syrian, and Jordanian heritage. She is the author of the poetry collection Water & Salt (Red Hen Press, 2017) and Arab in Newsland (Two Sylvias Press, 2017). Water & Salt received an honorable mention from the 2018 Arab American Book Award and is a finalist for the Washington State Book Award. Arab in Newsland won the 2016 Two Sylvias Chapbook Prize.
Tuffaha earned a BA in Comparative Literature from the University of Washington and an MFA from the Rainier Writing Workshop at Pacific Lutheran University. Her poems have been nominated for the Pushcart Prize and Best of the Net, and have been anthologized in collections including Bettering American Poetry, vol.2 and Making Mirrors: Writing/Righting by Refugees. Most recently, she has been published in journals including New England Review, Michigan Quarterly Review, Tinderbox, and Diode.
Tuffaha is a Hedgebrook alum and a member of the Radius of Arab American Writers (RAWI). In 2018, she served as inaugural Poet-in-Residence at Open Books: A Poem Emporium in Seattle. To learn more about her writing and travels, visit her website.