Nathalie Handal


Nathalie is a poet, playwright, and translator of Palestinian descent, whose grandfather migrated to the West from Bethlehem in Palestine. She has lived in Latin America, Europe, the Arab region, and the United States. She received an MFA in poetry and an MPhil in drama and English.

Nathalie has published several poetry collections, including The Neverfield (1999); The Lives of Rain (2005); Love and Strange Horses (2010); and Poet in Andalucía (2012), winner of the 2011 Gold Medal Independent Publisher Book Award. She edited The Poetry of Arab Women: A Contemporary Anthology (2000), for which she won the PEN Oakland Josephine Miles Book Award; and co-edited Language For a New Century: Contemporary Poetry from the Middle East, Asia, and Beyond (2008) with Tina Chang and Ravi Shankar. Her plays include Between Our Lips (2006), La Cosa Dei Songi (2006), The Stonecutters (2007), and Hakawatiyeh (2009).

Nathalie has received many honors. These included a Lannan Foundation fellowship and the Alejo Zuloaga Order in Literature (2011).

Nathalie writes the literary travel column for Words without Borders. She works as a teacher at both Columbia University and the Low-Residency MFA program, Sierra Nevada College.


There are men who die
with the wrong name,
others who invent,
forget, or doubt their names,
I know every syllable of my name
in Arabic,
every word is a direction.


I heard
I’m an Armenian
who believes that stars
are the pieces of lightning
history left to space,
I heard
I have Roman blood
and my brother is Turkish
and Greek,
I heard
my heart is
by the Mosque of Omar
by the Nativity
beside a talisman
and an old man
without teeth or keys,
I heard
my poems turned into stones
with Aramaic letters,
I heard
that here
invaders push natives aside
natives hand their names to trees
and trees rehearse the verses
freedom left,
I heard
I was a house
made of Mediterranean light
except I only heard this in springtime
and Spring might not exist here anymore—
they took all of our trees—
perhaps Jesus can explain what happened
or perhaps all I need to remember
is that
I heard—but this I know—
I’m an Arab,
the seven quarters
of the old city
has left me seven keys
so I can always enter.


Every street is still
a stone white sky,
I pay respect
to those who aren’t
allowed to enter
as I enter Al Aqsa,
as I pray
I look at the spiral colors
in God’s ceiling,
think of all I love
who I love
his voice breaking
his Arabic aching
wounds me.

The Child Anthem

The children are not dead
They are shadows in every tank
They are echoes in every soldier
The children are not dead
They are in every house
in the eyes of every father
every mother
in the soul of a people
They are in every location
in the heart—
the children at the beach
in the houses
on the streets
by their brothers and sisters
are everywhere now
The children are not dead
They will move in the world
without being stopped
They will move
They will move us all.


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