Zeina Hashem Beck

Poetry Magazine's 2017 Frederick Bock Prize Winner
2016 Laureate’s Choice, Selected by Carol Ann Duffy
2016 May Sarton New Hampshire Poetry Prize Winner

Zeina Beck 1

I grew up in Tripoli, Lebanon, where the sounds of the city and the stories of the women around me were my first literature. When I once complained to my mother about the lack of books in our house, she said, “Read the French-Arabic dictionary.” Still fascinated with place and language, still trying to re-define, my work often centers on Arab culture, identity, home, exile, family narratives, female voices, the news, and religion. It exists at the intersections of the personal and the political, the divine and the profane, the self and the other. I’m interested in poetry that witnesses, resists the orientalist’s gaze, creates small bridges, explores linguistic and cultural translation, and insists on loving the broken world, on the power of song, even in the
dark times.

Interspersing longer, narrative sequences […] with formal experiments on shape poems, text messages, ghazals, and even mathematical equations, Louder than Hearts is a brilliant, daring addition to a growing corpus of work that celebrates our shared present while bearing witness to shared pain. – The London Magazine

What we see here is a breakthrough book, with unexpected events, and reactions that inform and inspire life as a modern Arab woman. — Washington Independent Review of Books

If spring is to come, Beck is clear-eyed enough to admit, flowers grow from blood in "the streets instead of rain." Still, I can't help but be glad that "spring" is the word that closes the book: Beck's greatest gift is to show us that beauty and tenderness can never be completely destroyed. — New Orleans Review

A series of 45 vignettes exploring life in Lebanon’s capital, it succeeds in evoking the city more powerfully than many full-length novels. —  The Daily Star

I don't know how Zeina Hashem Beck is able to do this. Her poems feel like whole worlds. Potent conversations with the self, the soul, the many landscapes of being, and the news that confounds us all - her poems weave two languages into a perfect fabric of presence, with an almost mystical sense of pacing and power. "You Fixed It" might be one of the masterpieces of our time. There is death, loss, disaster, but more importantly, an exquisite sense of reviving language and poetry -- anthems of life, love, respect, abounding. Everything Arabic we treasure comes alive in these poems - readers will feel restored to so many homes, revived, amazed. Zeina Hashem Beck writes with a brilliant, absolutely essential voice. — Naomi Shihab Nye

These poems are brilliantly balanced between languages, between nostalgia and news, between Self and Other. I could read them over and over like, well, playing a favourite Fairouz record, but here the words are the music and the words recreate a world I love, savour and mourn. —  Marilyn Hacker  

Rarely does poetry seem to matter more than while reading the work of Zeina Hashem Beck— a poet of immense talent and passion who is clearly at the beginning of a long and important literary career.— Rattle Editors

Whether drawing on myth or fairytale, or writing directly from women's experience, these are powerful poems by a new writer with a remarkable gift for storytelling. — Carol Ann Duffy

There isn’t a word of falseness, a hint of voguish irony — just a deep love for her subjects and her language and an astonishing ability to relay that in verse. [...] There’s no simpler way to say: it’s actual magic, the kind of magic poetry is uniquely capable of performing. Again and again in the collection, Beck demonstrates herself to be a sincere master of this conjuring. — Kaveh Akbar

Here, as always in the poetry of Zeina Hashem Beck the world pliés before us in all of its ruthless beauty and terror.” —   Best American Poetry

Reading Louder than Hearts, it struck me that Zeina has invented her own language, something between English and Arabic. — The Hindu

Zeina Hashem Beck is a Lebanese poet. She won the 2016 May Sarton New Hampshire Poetry Prize for her most recent collection, Louder than Hearts, about which Naomi Shihab Nye wrote, “Everything Arab we treasure comes alive in these poems. Readers will feel restored to so many homes, revived, amazed. Zeina Hashem Beck writes with a brilliant, absolutely essential voice.” Zeina is also the author of two chapbooks: 3arabi Song, winner of the 2016 Rattle Chapbook Prize, and There Was and How Much There Was, a 2016 smith|doorstop Laureate’s Choice, selected by Carol Ann Duffy. Her first collection, To Live in Autumn, won the 2013 Backwaters Prize and was a runner-up for the 2014 Julie Suk Award. Zeina’s poem, “Maqam,” won Poetry Magazine’s 2017 Frederick Bock Prize. Her work was selected for Bettering American Poetry 2016, won Best of the Net, was nominated for the Pushcart Prize and the Forward Prize, and has appeared in Ploughshares, Poetry, Poetry Northwest, Ambit, and The Rialto, among others. She grew up in Tripoli, Lebanon, and has a BA and an MA in English Literature from the American University of Beirut. Zeina’s readings often have a strong performative quality, and she reads in the Middle East and internationally. Zeina Hashem Beck is based in Dubai.

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