Martin Farawell, Program Director, Poetry
For poet, novelist, essayist and newspaper columnist Taslima Nasreen, the nature of the relationship between poetry and politics is not an academic question but, quite literally, a matter of life and death. Her outspoken poems and essays supporting women’s rights and freedom of expression have led repeatedly to fatwas calling for her execution. As a result, she has spent long periods of her life under house arrest, in hiding or living in exile from her native Bangladesh.
Considering her history, reading “You Go Girl” and “A Letter to My Mother” in public is, for Nasreen, the act of taking her life in her hands. This has been the case for nearly two decades, when religious fundamentalists first broke into the newspaper offices where she worked, sued her editors and publishers and threatened her life. She has since been publicly assaulted a number of times and, as recently as March of 2010, one of her newspaper columns sparked riots that left two dead.
Despite the risks, Nasreen has continued to write and speak out, publishing nearly thirty books that have been translated into twenty languages. In the process, she has become internationally recognized as an advocate for women’s rights. It may be that international attention to her plight spared her life on more than one occasion.
English translations of her work include the poetry collections All About Women, Love Poems of Taslima Nasreen, 100 Poems of Taslima Nasreen, and The Game in Reverse and the prose works Homecoming, Phera and Shame (Lajja).
Be sure to return for upcoming Poetry Fridays, when we will feature many poets from past Dodge Poetry Festivals in the weeks ahead.
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The Geraldine R. Dodge Poetry Festival in Newark is October 7 – 10!
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