Al Mutanabbi Street Starts Here Event in Portland

Al Mutanabbi Street Starts Here Event in Portland

Al Mutanabbi Street Starts Here! An Evening of Music and Spoken Word

Wednesday, March 5, 2014 7:00 p.m. – 9:00 p.m.

Location: Multnomah Friends Meeting House, 4312 SE Stark Street, Portland Admission Price: Free, donations accepted RSVP: Not required. Refreshments will be served.

You are invited to join us for an event titled, “Al Mutanabbi Street Starts Here! An Evening of Music and Spoken Word” commemorating the bombing of Baghdad’s centuries-old booksellers district, which many consider the heart and soul of the city. This event is being organized under the auspices of the Al Mutanabbi Street Starts Here project, Portland will be one of 27 locations around the world, including Cairo, Egypt.

Two keynote speakers scheduled for the evening: Dr. Bahir Butti, who will speak about the poetry of the 10th century Arabic poet, al-Mutanabbi (for whom the Baghdad street is named) and will give a brief tour of the city of Baghdad, putting Al Mutanabbi Street into its local setting. He will be followed by local photographer Jim Lommasson who will speak about his most recent project: What We Carried: Fragments from the Cradle of Civilization, a collaborative effort with Iraqi refugees who live in the Portland area. The evening will also include readings of poetry, stories and essays in both English and Arabic, plus personal stories from Iraqi refugees with opportunities for questions and conversation.


Readers of a suite of poems, stories and essays will include Tarik Mikha, Haifa Al Habib, Dalia al Khazraji, Hadi Benztaiq, Mohammed Al Fartoosi, Mushen al Dhalimi and Omar Al Kubaisi—all members of the local Iraqi refugee community. They will recite in Arabic while volunteers from Portland’s pdxbackstage theater community, Kevin Scott and Patty Yates, will read the same works in English. Also from pdxbackstage, David Loftus and Kay Ethen, will read essays from Anthony Shadid and Lutfiya al-Dulaimi; and Chrisse Rocarro will open the evening with Seamus Heaney’s translation of Sophocles’ 2,400-year-old poem titled The Philocletes. Irv Brendlinger, PhD, author and Professor Emeritus of church history and theology at George Fox University will read the Lewis Buzbee fable Crossroads.

On display will be Jim Lommasson’s photographs, plus broadsides and artist books from the project. Copies of the anthology will be available for viewing along with Al Mutanabbi Street Starts Here exhibition catalogues and informative posters about Iraqi history and culture; plus an English translation of the Manifesto of the Poets of Baghdad, delivered amidst the rubble on March 6, 2007, the day after the bombing. There will be time to visit and to examine these items before the formal program, during the intermission and after the program.

Guests arriving at the event will be greeted by the music of Iraqi singer, guitarist and composer Ronny Salim. The music will open and close the program and play during intermission.