Nathalie Handal

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Nathalie Handal
Nathalie Handal.jpg
Born (1969-07-29) July 29, 1969 (age 47)
Occupation Poet, writer, playwright
Nationality French, American
Ethnicity Arab
Alma mater Bennington College,
University of London
Notable works The Neverfield Poem, The Lives of Rain, Love and Strange Horses, Poet in Andalucía, The Republics
Notable awards Lannan Foundation Fellow, Agnes Lynch Starrett Poetry Prize, Menada Literary Award, Gold Medal Independent Publisher Book Award, PEN Oakland Josephine Miles Literary Award, Gift of Freedom Award, Virginia Faulkner Award for Excellence in Writing

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


Nathalie Handal is a French-American poet and playwright born in Haiti to a Palestinian family from Bethlehem.[4][5][6][7] Having lived in France, United States, Latin America, the Caribbean and the Arab world, 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.” The cadence of Nathalie Handal’s voice resembles her nomadic life. She explains, “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 means to be human.”[8] As a result, her books are written in English but laced with Arabic, French, Spanish, Italian, Creole, and even Russian and Sanskrit words.[7]

After earning a MFA in Creative Writing from Bennington College, Vermont and a MPhil in English and Drama at the University of London, Handal became interested in the writing of Arab women in the 1990s.[9][10] She currently has residences in both New York City and Paris,[1][11] and is a professor at Columbia University.[1][11][7]

Literary career[edit]

Handal at the PalFest 2008 in Bethlehem.

Handal is the author of five books of poetry, several plays and the editor of two anthologies. She is a Lannan Foundation Fellow, Centro Andaluz de las Letras Fellow, Fondazione di Venezia 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 twenty theatrical or film productions. Her work has appeared in numerous anthologies and magazines, such as Vanity Fair, The New York Times, The Guardian, World Literature Today, The Virginia Quarterly Review, Poetry New Zealand, Guernica Magazine, and The Nation; and has been translated into more than fifteen languages. She was the featured poet in the PBS NewsHour on April 20, 2009.[12] Her book The Lives of Rain was shortlisted for the Agnes Lynch Starrett Poetry Prize[13] and received the Menada Literary Award and 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. The critically acclaimed Poet in Andalucía (2012) consists of “poems of depth and weight, and the sorrowing song of longing and resolve.”[14] The flash collection The Republics is lauded as “one of the most inventive books by one of today’s most diverse writers” and the winner of the Virginia Faulkner Award for Excellence in Writing.

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.[9] It was an Academy of American Poets bestseller, named one of the top 10 Feminist Books by The Guardian, and won the PEN Oakland/Josephine Miles Literary Award.[15] 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.[15] She was Picador Guest Professor at Leipzig University, Germany, and is currently teaching at Columbia University[16] and part of the Low-Residency MFA faculty at Sierra Nevada College.[17]

Handal writes the literary travel column "The City and The Writer", for the online magazine Words Without Borders.[18] 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.[19][20]


In her collection "Poet in Andalucía" she goes back to Islamic Spain where Christians, Jews, and Muslims lived in relative harmony.[21]

Building an Architecture for the Wanderer[edit]

"Groundbreaking poet, playwright, and editor Nathalie Handal is one of our most diverse contemporary writers, and as the Washington Independent Review of Books writes, it’s with “startling force [that she] is building an architecture for the wanderer.” Handal’s poem “Lady Liberty” was to appear on posters in New York City subways, buses, taxis, and on MetroCards as part of Poetry in Motion, a joint project of the MTA Arts for Transit & Urban Design and the Poetry Society of America, whose featured poems are read by more than seven million commuters daily.”[7]

Published works[edit]

  • The Neverfield Poem (1999)[15]
  • The Lives of Rain (2005)[15]
  • 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)[15]
  • 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)[15]
  • "Mahmoud Darwish: Palestine's Poet of Exile", The Progressive, May 2002[25]
  • "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[26]
  • "We Are All Going to Die", interview with Edwidge Dandicat, Guernica Magazine, January 2011[27]
  • "The Other Face of Silence", interview with Elia Suleiman, Guernica Magazine, May 2011[28]
  • "Not Quite Invisible", Nathalie Handal interviews Mark Strand, Guernica Magazine, April 2012[29]
  • "Against the Line", interview with Jonathan Galassi, Guernica Magazine, June 2012[30]
  • “Elisa Biagini: A World Reinvented Through Poetry,” Guernica Magazine, February 7, 2014[31]
  • “Kareem James Abu-Zeid: A Search for Justice and Expansive Identities," Guernica Magazine, August 2014[32]


  1. ^ a b c "Ralph Gardner: Nathalie Handal, a Queens Poet Without Borders". The Wall Street Journal. Retrieved 2015-02-24. 
  2. ^ "Nathalie Handal: Poet and playwright". Institute for Middle East Understanding. Retrieved 2014-01-17. 
  3. ^ "Nathalie Handal". Internet Archive Wayback Machine. Archived from the original on August 21, 2008. Retrieved 2014-01-17. 
  4. ^ Poetry Foundation - Nathalie Handal
  5. ^ "Miracles of the Word" (PDF). M&G Friday. Retrieved 2014-01-17. 
  6. ^ "Nathalie Handal: Haiti". Guernica: A Magazine of Art & Politics. Retrieved 2014-01-17. 
  7. ^ a b c d "Rachel Morgenstern-Clarren: Building an Architecture for the Wanderer: A Conversation with Nathalie Handal". World Literature Today. Retrieved 2016-05-24. 
  8. ^ "Poetry - Interview - Nathalie Handal - Love and Strange Horses: The Freedom of Poetry". Retrieved 18 March 2014. 
  9. ^ a b Shalal-Esa, Andrea (2006-12-20). "Arab-American writer is ambassador for Middle East". Washington Post. Retrieved 2011-09-13. 
  10. ^ Interview with Nathalie Handal Archived August 23, 2010, at the Wayback Machine.
  11. ^ a b "Muslim Women: Past and Present - Nathalie Handal". 2006-12-20. Retrieved 2013-06-17. 
  12. ^ "Well-traveled Poet Finds Consistency in Words". Online NewsHour. MacNeil/Lehrer Productions. 2009-04-20. Retrieved 2009-05-15. 
  13. ^ a b "PEN American Center - Nathalie Handal". PEN American Center. Retrieved 2008-03-19. 
  14. ^ Handal, Nathalie. "BookDetails". Retrieved 2013-06-17. 
  15. ^ a b c d e f g h "Nathalie Handal". Kennedy Center. Retrieved 2009-05-15. 
  16. ^ Columbia University. "Columbia University". Retrieved 2013-06-17. 
  17. ^ Sierra Nevada College. "Sierra Nevada College". Retrieved 2013-06-17. 
  18. ^ Handal, Nathalie (2010-09-22). "New Blog Series: Nathalie Handal's 'The City and the Writer'". Words Without Borders. Retrieved 2011-09-13. 
  19. ^ a b "Writers". The Alternative Theatre Company Ltd (The Bush Theatre). Retrieved 2011-09-13. 
  20. ^ a b "Sixty-Six Books". The Alternative Theatre Company Ltd (The Bush Theatre). Retrieved 2011-09-13. 
  21. ^ "Poetic Journeys: A Conversation with Nathalie Handal". World Literature Today. Retrieved 2013-06-17. 
  22. ^ a b c "Nathalie Handal: Theatre and Film". Nathalie Handal. Retrieved 2011-09-13. 
  23. ^ Hill, Holly (2009). "Middle Eastern American Theatre: History, Playwrights and Plays". Alliance for Inclusion in the Arts. Retrieved 2011-09-13. 
  24. ^ "Nathalie Handal: Men in Verse in response to 2 John". The Alternative Theatre Company Ltd (The Bush Theatre). Retrieved 2011-09-27. 
  25. ^ Handal, Nathalie (May 2002). "Mahmoud Darwish: Palestine's Poet of Exile". The Progressive. Retrieved 2011-09-13. 
  26. ^ "Sisterhood of Hope". Saudi Aramco World. Aramco Services Company. Retrieved 2011-09-13. 
  27. ^ "We Are All Going to Die". Guernica Magazine. January 2011. Retrieved 2011-09-13. 
  28. ^ "The Other Face of Silence". Guernica Magazine. May 2011. Retrieved 2011-09-13. 
  29. ^ Virtua Design. "Not Quite Invisible , Nathalie Handal Interviews Mark Strand - Guernica / A Magazine of Art & Politics". Retrieved 2013-06-17. 
  30. ^ "Against the Line". Guernica Magazine. June 2012. Retrieved 2012-06-01. 
  31. ^ "Elisa Biagini: A World Reinvented Through Poetry". Guernica Magazine. February 2014. Retrieved 2014-07-02. 
  32. ^ "Kareem James Abu-Zeid: A Search for Justice and Expansive Identities". Guernica Magazine. August 2014. Retrieved 2014-08-21. 

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