Issue 10: Winter/Fall 2017


The photo above was taken in Ellis Island sometime between 1902 and 1913. It’s titled “The Pens at Ellis Island.” Photographer unknown. What I like about the photo is how much it shows us about our country. It shows–as if we needed reminding–that we have always been a country of immigrants. But it also shows that we have not always treated immigrants with the respect they deserve. I like that there is an American flag in the background, but that rather than flying it sags, the weight of its cloth pulling it toward the ground. I like, too, how orderly the photo appears to be. In his post-9/11 book Hold Everything Dear: Dispatches on Survival and Resistance, John Berger wrote, “There is a very direct relation today between the minutes of meetings and the minutes of agony.” Trump’s executive order is a document that at its face appears to be orderly, efficient, even bureaucratic, but that is in fact an act of violence.

And in response, many of us have risen up and have resisted. There have been protests. There have been hundreds of lawyers volunteering their time. There has been reporting on and investigations into the illegality of what was done and (if Trump issues a new order) might very well be done again. And there has been the sharing of art. This issue of M-Dash was inspired by the poet Kaveh Akbar, who back in January started sharing poems by authors from those seven banned countries. Our issue today includes work from four of those countries: Iran, Iraq, Sudan, and Syria. Future issues will continue to feature work by authors from those and any other country that the Trump administration tries to demonize, stereotype, or dismiss. Because art is a form of knowing and translation can combat the ignorance. Or as translator Alana Marie Levinson-LaBrosse says in the short essay that precedes her other others’ translations of poems from Iraq, “What more could I say to my own country now? Knowledge then knowledge then knowledge: that’s our duty.”

-Sarah Viren, Editor

In this issue:

Half White, Half Violet, a short story by Iranian author Mahsa Mohebali, translated from the Persian by Maryam Zehtabi Sabeti Moqaddam

The Man Who Hates Sneezing, a short story by Syrian author Zaher Omareen, translated from the Arabic by Alice Guthrie

Two Poems by Sudanese poet Abed Elrahim Abu Zakrra, translated from the Arabic by Bakhit Bakhit with Aron Aji

Three Poems by Iraqi poets, translated by members of the research collective Kashkul, and a translator’s note from collective member Alana Marie Levinson-LaBrosse

A Review of Samantha Schweblin’s Fever Dream, by Jessica Smith

Translation Talk with Christi Merrill