Several years ago I had the sublime pleasure of talking on stage with poet Choman Hardi at the Auckland Writers Festival. It is an experience I will never forget. She has just sent me a link to this fabulous essay she has written. It is essential reading. It speaks of connections, the power of poetry in the face of unspeakable things. I am so thankful for the internet and we can make these connections. She believes:
I believe that poetry is the perfect medium to tell difficult and marginalised stories. It is perfect not only because it can challenge the dominant narratives and accepted realities, but also because it rescues us from apathy, reconnects us to our feelings, and helps us to continue resisting! It brings our rational side together with our emotions and makes us whole once again, ready to resist and defy. For us, poetry has been the means to challenge a history which is usually written by others, and sometimes by ‘hostile’ others. We have turned to poetry in the face of oppression, violence, and erasure. We have reclaimed our denied homeland and language through poetry. We have ‘survived’ through poetry. For people like us, poetry can be as essential as food and shelter because the survival of a people does not just mean their physical survival but also the survival of their language, history, and culture.
‘In the first of our long reads Choman Hardi narrates the survival of the Kurdish people though one hundred years of repression and violence, telling us of the power of poetry to rebuild connections and “speak the unspeakable”, detailing her work to achieve gender equality and change long-held views through her poetry and activism.’
Read the full piece here.
Choman was born in Sulaimani and lived in Iraq before her family sought asylum in the UK in 1993. She graduated from Oxford university with BA in philosophy and psychology, London University with an MA in Philosophy and Kent with a PhD in Mental Health. Her post-doctoral research into genocide survivors resulted in Genocide: Anfal Survivors in Kurdistand Iraq. She has published poetry collections in both English and Kurdish. In 2014 she moved back to Sulaimani to teach at the American University of Iraq and became Chair in English the following year. Her most recent collection in English, Considering the Women, is what I claim as an essential poetry reading experience. It shows that poetry has the power to connect across global divides, to shine light on stories in the shadows, at times unbearable, at times emitting enduring strength.
Choman is currently the Director of AUIS’s Center for Gender and Development Studies, and a Co-Director of the UKRI GCRF Gender, Justice and Security Hub. Her research focuses on women’s experiences of political violence as well as their role in social and political movements. On the GCRF Hub, Choman is researching about the role of institutions and practices on the construction of an aggressive and sexually exploitative masculinity which victimises women. The project aims to develop means of develop and promote a culture of non-violence and sensitivity amongst the younger generation of men.
Choman Hardi Considering the Women, Bloodaxe Books, 2011