Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Suheir Hammad: Spoken Word Artist

Last Friday, TED posted the video below of the much-honored poet, playwright, and political activist Suheir Hammad performing two spoken-word pieces: "What I Will" and "break (clustered)". Her second poem — never more relevant than today — will raise the hair on the back of your neck. I found it very moving. Just listen.

Winner of a 2009 American Book Award from the Before Columbus Foundation and the 2009 Arab American Book Award for first prize in poetry, Suheir is the author of breaking poems (Cypher Books, 2008), ZaatarDiva (Cypher Books, 2008),  Born Palestinian, Born Black (UpSet Press, 2010; Harlem River Press, 1996), and Drops of This Story (Writers & Readers Publishing, 2nd Ed., 1996). She wrote the Foreword, "From Margin to Center", to Word.: On Being a [Woman] Writer, edited by Jocelyn Burrell (The Feminist Press at CUNY, 2004). Her plays include Blood Trinity and breaking letter(s), both of which have been produced on stage.  Suheir performed in the original cast and was a writer for Tony Award-winning Russell Simmons Presents Def Poetry Jam on Broadway in 2008. 

A third-generation Palestinian refugee, Suheir was born in Jordan and grew up in Brooklyn, New York.

Suheir's poems are widely anthologized. Online, go here to read "4:02 p.m.", "talisman", "daughter", "the missing", "land".

An informative 1997 interview with Suheir is here. A 2006 interview at The Electronic Intifada is here. In the latter she says, ". . . poetry tries to make a connection between the absences and the losses that I feel in my person, and make the connection to the body feeling detached or feeling displaced, and the reality of land and shelter and the idea of the continuity of citizenship and the idea of ancestry...." A more recent video interview with Suheir is here.

Cannes Film Festival Official Selection: Salt of This Sea, 2008, by Annemarie Jacir: Suheir, in her first acting role, appears in the film. A trailer that includes Suheir is here.

APA [Asian/Pacific/American] Institute, New York University: Suheir is Artist in Residence, September 2010 - May 2011. On February 22, 6:00 p.m. - 8:00 p.m., NYU Tisch, Suheir is appearing in "The Practice of Poetry — Beau Sia In Dialogue with Suheir Hammad".  Beau Sia is a Chinese-American poet whose work is featured in Slam and Slam Nation.


Ami Mattison said...

I love Hammad's work! I can't wait to check out all these links. Thanks for sharing!

Louise Gallagher said...

Her voice is incredible -- both on the page and spoken.

A. Jay Adler said...

Thanks, Maureen. Hammad is new to me, and I agree with you about "break (clustered)," which reaches that rare achievement of combining the best qualities of spoken word and textual poetry.

Anonymous said...

she speaks her word art well.
and i like her pretty blouse.

Lorenzo — Alchemist's Pillow said...

So you glad you have spread the word about Hammad. I listened to the very powerful readings at her TED recitals and will look for more. "Don't look for my shadow, I carry it around inside me". Wow.

Maureen said...

Thank you all for reading and commenting this morning. I think Suheir (she goes by her first name) is fabulous. Her film work is interesting too.