Dunya Mikhail

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Dunya Mikhail
Reading at a Split This Rock event, 2014
Reading at a Split This Rock event, 2014
Baghdad, Iraq
LanguageAramaic; Arabic; English
Alma materWayne State University
Notable awardsUnited Nations Human Rights Award for Freedom of Writing

Dunya Mikhail (born 1965 in Baghdad, Iraq) is an Iraqi-American poet based in the United States.


She was born and raised in Iraq to a Chaldean-Catholic family.[1][2] She graduated with a BA from the University of Baghdad.[3]

Mikhail worked as a journalist, as editor of the literary section, and as a translator for The Baghdad Observer.[3] As a liberal writer during the time of dictatorship and censorship, Mikhail fled Iraq in 1995, going first to Jordan and then eventually to the United States,[4] where she became a U.S. citizen, got married, and raised a daughter.[5] She studied Near Eastern Studies and received her MA from Wayne State University.[6]

In 2001, she was awarded the United Nations Human Rights Award for Freedom of Writing.[3]

Mikhail speaks and writes in Arabic and English. Her works include the poetry collection The War Works Hard, which won PEN's Translation Fund award,[7] was shortlisted for the Griffin Poetry Prize,[3] and was named one of the best books of 2005 by the New York Public Library. Her genre-bending work Diary of a Wave Outside the Sea won the Arab American Book Award in 2010.[8] Her poetry has appeared in Poetry International, Modern Poetry in Translation, the London Times,[9] as well as anthologies including World Beat: International Poetry Now from New Directions, Flowers of Flame: Unheard Voices of Iraq, and Iraqi Poetry Today: Modern Poetry in Translation.

Mikhail's honors include the Guggenheim Fellowship, the Knights Foundation grant, the Kresge Fellowship, the United Nations Human Rights Award for Freedom of Writing, and the shortlist of the Arabic Booker Prize.[10] She is the co-founder of the Michigan community-based Mesopotamian Forum for Art and Culture. She currently works as a special lecturer of Arabic at Oakland University in Michigan.


  • The War Works Hard. Translated by Elizabeth Winslow. New Directions Publishing. 2005. ISBN 978-0-8112-1621-0. (shortlisted for the 2006 International Griffin Poetry Prize)[11]
  • Diary of a Wave Outside the Sea. New Directions Publishing. 2009. ISBN 978-0-8112-1831-3.
  • The Iraqi Nights, Translated by Kareem James Abu-Zeid, New Directions Publishing Corporation, 2014, ISBN 9780811222860
  • The Theory of Absence, Chinese University Press, 2014, ISBN 9789629966188
  • The Beekeeper: Rescuing the Stolen Women of Iraq, translated by Max Weiss and Dunya Mikhail. New Directions Publishing Corporation. 2018. ISBN 978-0811226127.[12]
  • In Her Feminine Sign. New Directions Publishing Corporation. 2019.
  • The Bird Tattoo. Dar al-Rafidain. 2020.


  1. ^ "The Assyrian Poet and the Kurdish Boy". 2018-03-30. Retrieved September 5, 2020.
  2. ^ Dunya Mikhail: 'The War Works Hard' : NPR
  3. ^ a b c d "Dunya Mikhail". Poetry foundation.
  4. ^ Solmaz Sharif (April 25, 2014). "Dunya Mikhail: Politics in Service of Poetry". Foreign Policy in Focus. Institute for Policy Studies.
  5. ^ NPR Staff (March 21, 2013). "Revisiting Iraq Through The Eyes Of An Exiled Poet". NPR. Retrieved 19 December 2014.
  6. ^ Griffin Poetry Prize biography
  7. ^ "Dunya Mikhail: The War Works Hard" Archived 2011-07-27 at the Wayback Machine at the PEN American Center website; accessed 8 Mar 2011.
  8. ^ "2010 Arab American Book Award Winners – Arab American National Museum". Retrieved 2022-03-18.
  9. ^ Dunya Mikhail profile on Words Without Borders Web site
  10. ^ "Dunya Mikhail | International Prize for Arabic Fiction". www.arabicfiction.org. Retrieved 2022-03-18.
  11. ^ "Poetry Microreview of The War Works Hard". Boston Review. Archived from the original on August 8, 2006. The War Works Hard is a timely book, equipped to meet the demands of those readers who expect from poetry the kind of relevance that William Carlos Williams had in mind when he wrote, “It is difficult / to get the news from poems / yet men die miserably every day / for lack / of what is found there.”
  12. ^ "The Beekeeper: Rescuing the Stolen Women of Iraq | Dunya Mikhail". dunyamikhailpoet.com. Retrieved 2018-03-13.

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