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We Weren’t Born In The Cities We Long For

An award-winning Lebanese poet explains how good art turns strange places into safe havens

The refugee crisis has never been abstract for award-winning poet Zeina Hashem Beck, who grew up in Tripoli, Lebanon—a nation where one out of every four people is displaced. People in exile are just part of her everyday experience, and thus frequently show up in her hauntingly political and deeply personal work. In her poem "Body," Hashem Beck writes of Hassan Rabeh, the young dancer displaced from Syria who killed himself by jumping from a seventh-floor balcony in Beirut last June. In “Naming Things,” she references the Palestinian pianist who played in the besieged Yarmouk camp until ISIS burned his piano and he fled to Germany.

Yet Hashem Beck is quick to point out that she doesn’t want her readers to think, “Oh, how sad.”

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