Nathalie Handal: “All that I observe, that I experience, filters itself into words.”

Nathalie Handal

The world is a poem

As a poet, writer, playwright, director, and producer, Nathalie Handal articulates the primacy of words and experience in responding to an interview question about the inspiration for her poetry collection The Lives of Rain:

“To me, the world is a poem, a poem I keep writing and re-writing. All that I observe, that I experience, filters itself into words. So much inspires me, the butterfly on the windowsill about to take flight, the gentle dance of the water, the different shapes of the grey-blue mist, the lover looking for his shadow, the child looking for her mother.

Resistance and hope

“I wanted Lives to be a testament of my Palestinian exile and dislocation, my Diasporic experience—and my numerous cultural, historical and literary influences… I wanted the poems to transmit the suffering that we endure and which we consciously or unconsciously inflict on our close and wider community, and the vulnerability of the human condition. I wanted the poems to convey resistance and hope.”

Welcomes multiple ethnic associations

Referring to how writers [and other artists] are often categorized, she says, “I consider myself as a writer and I often struggle with set definitions, labels and boxes many tend to put writers in. However, if one were to refer to me as an Arab-American that would be fine so long as they understood that I could also be referred to as a Palestinian, American, French, and Latina.”

Multiple cultures inhabit her unconscious

In another comment about the influences of multiple languages on her awareness and work, Handal notes, “Words evoke all sorts of memories and images. Languages take you to different places and times. I grew up with many different languages since I experienced multiple displacements and so, of course, languages, rhythms, tonalities, color and expressions have played an important role in my imagination, consciousness and subconscious. Arabic, French, Spanish, English live inside of my body, my mind and move me in ways that remain mysterious to me.”

From An Interview with Nathalie Handal, by Elizabeth Nunez, Chair of PEN American Open Book Program

[From – also source of the portrait]

Books by Nathalie Handal include:
The Poetry of Arab Women and The Lives of Rain

Related Talent Development Resources pages:
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