Dunya Mikhail is an Iraqi American poet and writer. After graduating from the University of Baghdad, she worked as a journalist and translator for The Baghdad Observer. Facing censorship and interrogation, she left Iraq in 1995, first to Jordan and then to America, settling in Detroit. She earned a Master's degree from Wayne State University and she currently teaches Arabic at Oakland University in Michigan.
According to the Christian Science Monitor, Dunya Mikhail is “one of the foremost poets of our time.” A laureate of the UNESCO Sharja Prize for Arab Culture, Dunya Mikhail has received fellowships from the United States Artists, the Guggenheim, and Kresge. Her honors also include Arab American Book Award, and UN Human Rights Award for Freedom of Writing. Her writing has garnered attention from The PBS News Hour, The New Yorker, The New York Times, The Guardian, and Poetry, among others.
She is the first contemporary Iraqi woman poet translated into English. Her books, published by New Directions, include THE WAR WORKS HARD (translated by Elizabeth Winslow), shortlisted for the International Griffon Poetry Prize; DIARY OF A WAVE OUTSIDE THE SEA, won the Arab American Book Award. THE IRAQI NIGHTS received the Poetry Magazine Translation Award (translated by Kareem James Abu-Zeid), and IN HER FEMININE SIGN, selected as the Wild Card Choice (UK), was chosen by The New York Public Library as one of the ten best poetry books of 2019. Her non-fiction THE BEEKEEPER (co-translated with Max Weiss), a finalist for the National Book Award and for PEN/John Kenneth Galbraith Award, is an account of the enslavement of women by ISIS, who are rescued by an unlikely hero: a beekeeper, who uses his knowledge of the local terrain, along with a network of transporters, to bring these women, one by one, back to safety.
With irony and subversive simplicity, Mikhail addresses themes of war, exile, and loss, using forms such as reportage, fable, and lyric. In an NPR interview, Mikhail said, “I feel that poetry is not medicine- it’s an X-ray. It helps you see the wound and understand it. We all feel alienated because of this continuous violence in the world. We feel alone, but we feel also together. So we resort to poetry as a possibility for survival. However, to say I survived is not so final. We wake up to find that the war survived with us.”
Dunya Mikhail is an Iraqi American poet and writer. A laureate of the UNESCO Sharja Prize for Arab Culture, Dunya Mikhail has received fellowships from the United States Artists, the Guggenheim, and Kresge. Her honors also include Arab American Book Award, and UN Human Rights Award for Freedom of Writing. She is the first contemporary Iraqi woman poet translated into English. Her book THE WAR WORKS HARD was shortlisted for the International Griffin Poetry Prize. New Directions publisher three of her other poetry books and her non-fiction book,THE BEEKEEPER, which was a finalist for the National Book Award and for PEN/John Kenneth Galbraith Award. Her debut novel, THE BIRD TATTOO, shortlisted for the International Prize for Arabic Fiction, is coming out on December 6, 2022 from Pegasus. She currently works as a special lecturer of Arabic at Oakland University in Michigan.