Nathalie Handal

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Nathalie Handal
Nathalie Handal.jpg
Born (1969-07-29) July 29, 1969 (age 46)
Occupation Poet, writer, playwright
Nationality French, American
Alma mater Bennington College
Queen Mary University of London
Notable works The Neverfield Poem, The Lives of Rain, Love and Strange Horses, Poet in Andalucía
Notable awards Agnes Lynch Starrett Poetry Prize, Menada Literary Award, 2011 Gold Medal Independent Publisher Book Award (IPPY Award), PEN Oakland/Josephine Miles Literary Award

Nathalie Handal (Arabic: نتالي حنظل‎) (born 29 July 1969) is a French-American award-winning poet, writer, and playwright.[1][2][3][4]


Nathalie Handal is a poet and playwright born in Haiti to a Palestinian family,[5][6][7] Having also lived in Europe, the United States, Latin America, and the Caribbean, the writer-poet-playwright is acutely aware of the commonality of the human experience and of the fact that "we don't exist in the jointed way that we should." She feels this most in the US's "material consumerist society," while in places like Africa and Latin America political unrest and a certain type of hardship forces you to look outside, beyond ourselves and the small space we live in. "Today I feel deeply connected to the world. Yes, I am Palestinian, but I am also French, Latina, and American."[8] The cadence of Nathalie Handal’s voice resembles her nomadic life. “I don’t have a mother tongue. I grew up speaking many languages, and these different languages have slipped into my English. My English is cross-fertilized with French, Spanish, Arabic, Creole….I love the idea of a bridge of words, a bridge of poems connecting us….showing us what it’s like to be human,”[9] she says. Her voice has the mellifluous tinge of a French accent,[10] due to her upbringing in her native Haiti, and maintained with her residence in Paris. She earned a MFA in Creative Writing from Bennington College, Vermont and a MPhil in English and Drama at Queen Mary University of London. She visited Bethlehem for the first time as a teenager and became interested in the writing of Arab women in the 1990s.[11][12] She currently has residences in both New York City and Paris.[1][13]

Literary career[edit]

Handal is the author of four books of poetry, several plays and the editor of two anthologies. She is a Lannan Foundation Fellow, a Fundación Araguaney Fellow, recipient of the Alejo Zuloaga Order in Literature 2011, the AE Ventures Fellowship, an Honored Finalist for the 2009 Gift of Freedom Award, and was shortlisted for New London Writers Awards and The Arts Council of England Writers Awards. She has also been involved as a writer, director, or producer in over twelve theatrical or film productions. Her work has appeared in numerous anthologies and magazines, such as The Guardian, World Literature Today, The Virginia Quarterly Review, Poetrywales, Ploughshares, Poetry New Zealand, Crab Orchard Review, and The Literary Review; and has been translated into more than fifteen languages. She was the featured poet in the PBS NewsHour on April 20, 2009.[14] Her book The Lives of Rain was shortlisted for the Agnes Lynch Starrett Poetry Prize[15] and received the Menada Literary Award. Her latest poetry book, Love and Strange Horses, is the winner of the 2011 Gold Medal Independent Publisher Book Award (IPPY Award), and an Honorable Mention at the San Francisco Book Festival and the New England Book Festival. Poet in Andalucía (2012) consists of “poems of depth and weight, and the sorrowing song of longing and resolve.”[16]

Handal has promoted international literature through translation and research, and edited The Poetry of Arab Women, an anthology that introduced several Arab women poets to a wider audience in the West and is used in university classes around the U.S.[11] It was an Academy of American Poets bestseller and won the PEN Oakland/Josephine Miles Literary Award.[17] She co-edited along with Tina Chang and Ravi Shankar the anthology Language for a New Century: Contemporary Poetry from the Middle East, Asia & Beyond.[17] She was Picador Guest Professor at Leipzig University, Germany, and is currently teaching at Columbia University[18] and part of the Low-Residency MFA faculty at Sierra Nevada College.[19]

Handal wrote a blog in 2010 called "The City and The Writer", for the online magazine Words Without Borders.[20] She has also written a piece based upon a book of the King James Bible as part of the Bush Theatre's 2011 project Sixty-Six Books.[21][22]

Handal writes in English, but uses Arabic, French and Spanish phrases in conversation.[11][15]


In her collection "Poet in Andalucía" she goes back to Islamic Spain where Christians, Jews, and Muslims lived in relative harmony.[23]

Israeli-Palestinian Views[edit]

In an interview in 2001, Handal said that since "many Israelis and Palestinians interact on a daily basis" this makes "them no longer strangers to each other. They know each other, even if often they do not agree with each other. There are many similarities between the two people." She continued, and said that "however, for many Jewish-Americans, Palestinians are “the Other.” [Jewish-Americans] often do not realize how closely linked the two people are."[24]

Return to Haiti after the Catastrophic Earthquake[edit]

Further information: 2010 Haiti earthquake

Since January 12, 2010, Haiti has been an open wound. Her visit on February 21, 2011, 25 years since being in Haiti (except for two brief entrances), a young girl at the time was seemingly exempt from the turmoil that led to the overthrow of Baby Doc and the chaotic aftermath of his regime. Remembering her youth in Haiti brought up images of hopscotch in school courtyards, of school uniforms, of eating mangoes and drinking fresco (ice with flavored syrup) in Pétionville. A study by the Inter-American Development Bank reported that before the earthquake nearly half the school-age children did not go to school, only one-fifth of teachers had any pedagogical training, three-quarters of schools were unaccredited, and more than half lacked running water. The earthquake destroyed 5,213 schools (4,820 in the West, 154 in Nippes, and 239 in the South-East).[7] Before the earthquake, Handal wrote a poem about her experience in Haiti entitled, The Cry of Flesh, where she writes about the island, its struggles but yet its rich culture and mentions musician Sweet Mickey dancing in the streets of Port-au-Prince, whose real name is Michel Martelly, the former compas musician and the current President of Haiti.[4]

Published works[edit]

  • The Neverfield Poem (1999)[17]
  • The Lives of Rain (2005)[17]
  • Love and Strange Horses (University of Pittsburgh Press, 2010)
  • Poet in Andalucía (University of Pittsburgh Press, 2012)[citation needed]
  • The Republics (University of Pittsburgh Press, 2015)
  • The Poetry of Arab Women (2001, ed. by Handal)[17]
  • Language for a New Century: Contemporary Poetry from the Middle East, Asia & Beyond (W.W. Norton, 2008, ed. by Handal, Tina Chang and Ravi Shankar)[17]
  • "Mahmoud Darwish: Palestine's Poet of Exile", The Progressive, May 2002[28]
  • "Shades of a Bridge's Breath", This bridge we call home: radical visions for transformation, eds. Gloria E. Anzaldúa and Analouise Keating (Routledge, 2002). ISBN 0-415-93682-9
  • "Sisterhood of Hope", interview with Zainab Salbi, Saudi Aramco World, September/October 2010[29]
  • "We Are All Going to Die", interview with Edwidge Dandicat, Guernica Magazine, January 2011[30]
  • "The Other Face of Silence", interview with Elia Suleiman, Guernica Magazine, May 2011[31]
  • "Not Quite Invisible", Nathalie Handal interviews Mark Strand, Guernica Magazine, April 2012[32]
  • "Against the Line", interview with Jonathan Galassi, Guernica Magazine, June 2012[33]
  • “Elisa Biagini: A World Reinvented Through Poetry,” Guernica Magazine, February 7, 2014[34]
  • “Kareem James Abu-Zeid: A Search for Justice and Expansive Identities," Guernica Magazine, August 2014[35]


  1. ^ a b "Ralph Gardner: Nathalie Handal, a Queens Poet Without Borders". The Wall Street Journal. Retrieved 2015-02-24. 
  2. ^ "Nathalie Handal". Evi. Retrieved 2014-01-17. 
  3. ^ "Nathalie Handal: Poet and playwright". Institute for Middle East Understanding. Retrieved 2014-01-17. 
  4. ^ a b "Nathalie Handal". Internet Archive Wayback Machine. Retrieved 2014-01-17. 
  5. ^ "Miracles of the Word" (PDF). M&G Friday. Retrieved 2014-01-17. 
  6. ^ "Haitian Expatriates: About Nathalie Handal". Retrieved 2014-01-17. 
  7. ^ a b "Nathalie Handal: Haiti". Guernica: A Magazine of Art & Politics. Retrieved 2014-01-17. 
  8. ^ "Miracles of the Word" (PDF). M&G Friday. Retrieved 2014-01-17. 
  9. ^ "POETRY - INTERVIEW - Nathalie Handal - Love and Strange Horses: The Freedom of Poetry". Retrieved 18 March 2014. 
  10. ^ "Nathalie Handal: Media Press Blurbs". Nathalie Handal. Retrieved 2014-01-17. 
  11. ^ a b c Shalal-Esa, Andrea (2006-12-20). "Arab-American writer is ambassador for Middle East". Washington Post. Retrieved 2011-09-13. 
  12. ^ Interview with Nathalie Handal[dead link]
  13. ^ "Bio". 2006-12-20. Retrieved 2013-06-17. 
  14. ^ "Well-traveled Poet Finds Consistency in Words". Online NewsHour. MacNeil/Lehrer Productions. 2009-04-20. Retrieved 2009-05-15. 
  15. ^ a b c "PEN American Center - Nathalie Handal". PEN American Center. Retrieved 2008-03-19. 
  16. ^ Handal, Nathalie. "BookDetails". Retrieved 2013-06-17. 
  17. ^ a b c d e f g h "Nathalie Handal". Kennedy Center. Retrieved 2009-05-15. 
  18. ^ Columbia University. "Columbia University". Retrieved 2013-06-17. 
  19. ^ Sierra Nevada College. "Sierra Nevada College". Retrieved 2013-06-17. 
  20. ^ Handal, Nathalie (2010-09-22). "New Blog Series: Nathalie Handal's 'The City and the Writer'". Words Without Borders. Retrieved 2011-09-13. 
  21. ^ a b "Writers". The Alternative Theatre Company Ltd (The Bush Theatre). Retrieved 2011-09-13. 
  22. ^ a b "Sixty-Six Books". The Alternative Theatre Company Ltd (The Bush Theatre). Retrieved 2011-09-13. 
  23. ^ "Poetic Journeys: A Conversation with Nathalie Handal". World Literature Today. Retrieved 2013-06-17. 
  24. ^ "Interview with Nathalie Handal". Retrieved 2013-06-17. 
  25. ^ a b c "Nathalie Handal: Theatre and Film". Nathalie Handal. Retrieved 2011-09-13. 
  26. ^ Hill, Holly (2009). "Middle Eastern American Theatre: History, Playwrights and Plays". Alliance for Inclusion in the Arts. Retrieved 2011-09-13. 
  27. ^ "Nathalie Handal: Men in Verse in response to 2 John". The Alternative Theatre Company Ltd (The Bush Theatre). Retrieved 2011-09-27. 
  28. ^ Handal, Nathalie (May 2002). "Mahmoud Darwish: Palestine's Poet of Exile". The Progressive. Retrieved 2011-09-13. 
  29. ^ "Sisterhood of Hope". Saudi Aramco World. Aramco Services Company. Retrieved 2011-09-13. 
  30. ^ "We Are All Going to Die". Guernica Magazine. January 2011. Retrieved 2011-09-13. 
  31. ^ "The Other Face of Silence". Guernica Magazine. May 2011. Retrieved 2011-09-13. 
  32. ^ Virtua Design. "Not Quite Invisible , Nathalie Handal Interviews Mark Strand - Guernica / A Magazine of Art & Politics". Retrieved 2013-06-17. 
  33. ^ "Against the Line". Guernica Magazine. June 2012. Retrieved 2012-06-01. 
  34. ^ "Elisa Biagini: A World Reinvented Through Poetry". Guernica Magazine. February 2014. Retrieved 2014-07-02. 
  35. ^ "Kareem James Abu-Zeid: A Search for Justice and Expansive Identities". Guernica Magazine. August 2014. Retrieved 2014-08-21. 

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