The Book Reviewer
“For the Best in Books”

Book Review


The Iraqi Nights, the magic: profound and iconic love poetry.

Byline: Reprint from Subterranean Blue Poetry

Title of Book: The Iraqi Nights

Author: Dunya Mikhail

Translator: Kareem James Abu-Zeid

Publisher: New Directions Papberbook

Date of Publication: 2013

Page Count: 112

“I love the rainy night”
- from I Love the Rainy Night by Eddie Rabbitt

The Iraqi Nights, a brilliant read in poetic form and grace . . . enigmatic, of the divine feminine and the goddess Oracle as Poet, by Dunya Mikhail. Poet Mikhail is a journalist from wartorn Iraq, after receiving threats from her government she emigrated to the United States. She has won awards for her writing and lives in Michigan, teaching at Oakland University. This is the third book of poetry she has written, the first two being, The War Works Hard, Diary of a Wave Outside the Sea, and the first I have reviewed. The afternoon is blue with overcast sky writing into evening, a child next door cries, and strains of “I love the rainy night” play through the quiet. The poetry . . . borrowing allusions from ancient Greece, ancient poetry and fairytales, the images of nature are quiet and beautiful with the story of a love affair interwoven in the lost peace of a wartorn land. Exotic, and painting a picture of a lost Mazetlan, the beauty of the life and the people of the Middle East.

This book of poetry begins with an allusion to Scheherazade. The famous story of Scheherazade is about a Persian King, Shahryar who everyday married a virgin wife and then had the previous day’s wife beheaded. He thought the previous wives unfaithful. He had killed 1,000 women by the time he was introduced to Scheherazade. In the Kings chambers at night, the well read Scheherazade spun an exciting story which was only half finished at dawn. The King asked her to finish but she said she would continue the story the next night. This went on for 1,001 nights and 1,000 stories, at the end of which she told him she had no more stories for him. Over all those nights of stories, the King had fallen in love with Scheherazade and he made her his wife.

The magic of the prelude begins, “In the land of Summer, where the houses are packed so closely together that their walls touch, where people sleep on rooftops in the summer and lovers climb the walls to see one another, and where lovers marry young, though their parents always refuse at first …” then the lovers Ishtar and Tammuz are introduced and she is shopping for a gift for her lover and wants to buy him everything. “On her way back, she was kidnapped by some masked men. They dragged her onward, leaving her mothers outstretched hand behind her forever. They brought her down into the underworld through seven gates. These poems Ishtar wrote on the gates suggest that she wasn’t killed at once. Or perhaps her words drew her abductor’s attention away from thoughts of murder.” So the poetry begins in magic despite violence, the metaphors and images of nature are painted into surrealistic landscapes of great beauty, perhaps borrowing from the Symbolist school. Against the backdrop of war a mythos of peace is created in the feminine.



She pressed her ear against the shell:

she wanted to hear everything

he never told her.


Water needs no wars

to mix with water

and fill the blank spaces.


He watches TV

While she holds a novel.

On the novel’s cover

there’s a man watching TV

and a woman holding a novel.


Cinderella left her slipper in Iraq

along with the smell of cardamom

wafting from the teapot,

and the huge flower,

its mouth gaping like death.

There is the story of the loss of a lover, the war, the violence of lost love, the story of a lost homeland. Throughout the poetry there is the juxtaposition of a land of peace, a land of love and the lost place, the place of violence. In A Second Life, this life is compared to a prison while the coming life, the second life is that of freedom. Despite the violence, the book ends on the birth of Larsa, fantastical and positive despite great loss. With the writings are black and white pictures of runes or Tablets, perhaps with the Arabic language, illuminating the poetry.

This poetry is the sacred ground of doves, both profound and iconic, I look for more work by this Poet. The Iraqi Nights by Dunya Mikhail.

Available @ Amazon Canada.

Available @ Amazon United States.

Available @ United Kingdom.

Genre: Poetry, New Age, Women's Literature

The Book Reviewer

© 2013