Hamlets | The New Engagement


By Betty Rosen

When I am in my body, it is shaped differently than you’d think. There are the eyes that feel like tongues. Then a tongue that wallows and mewls in the thirsty roughs. Stomach seashell in-curled ashamed over oyster-flesh. The other parts are sheathed or loaned to other pictures. My legs, for instance. If I saw my double, I’d give her the legs and watch her arrange them: a scholar’s curtain-drape cross, the architecture of a soldier’s kneel, a courtier’s full-price wantedness. Legs I’ve slashed and rashed and run to ache, twitched under tables, on wrong versions of me.

What if a body could be a like a coffee shop like a painting: table bawdy brown streak, counter gouache blob, violent shaved skylights, half-sketches of people, all enworded when I look at them? Oh what a noble mind and its skittish boy-thoughts tangling clumsily with the long harrowed sentences of drooping afternoon, at one of those times when being a woman feels like legs are rummaging in a sea bed, lifting the sands in an ominous coffee-smoke of troubles, daring your tongue to oppose.


Z and I are on a bench in Prospect Park, talking about whether Paul Giamatti is too old to play Hamlet. The light is a cold white on the backs of the gray dogs. Z makes a hunched shape to siphon the frosty sun into his chest. He often sits—especially when sad—as though his body is human dough cupped around a gaudy disaster of a world. As though he wants to be, at most, only a curved sliver fine as a hair. He looks at the dogs. He smiles at them, but it doesn’t seem to me that he is safe anywhere near that kind of yipping and leaping. The air is the exact viscosity of not-quite crying.

Z thinks Kenneth Branagh is too old to play Macbeth, but makes an allowance for Giamatti: when he was at Yale, in his twenties, they told him he wouldn’t work till he was forty. Now’s his chance. Now middle-aged, he’s grown into an ironic riff on student angst. Every gray hair tells how this Hamlet isn’t quite Hamlet. Hamlet is already too time-worn to play himself well: his sore joints out to be seen. Like this Hamlet here, who looks let down by the scampering flashes of dogs, flinches at the pigments’ crashes.

A maggot of thread rears from my dress’s hem: a teenage fly, red and dizzy, split-ended.

The rest is basically silence.


What makes a play Hamlet?

The first Arabic Hamlet was “translated” by Tanyus Abdu (a Lebanese immigrant living in Cairo) in 1901 from an 1840s French “translation” by Alexandre Dumas père. This Hamlet is a musical comedy written for a middle-aged popular singer. “To be or not to be” is replaced with a show-stopper. At the end, everyone except Claudius lives and is pardoned as Hamlet triumphantly takes the throne. And this is a Hamlet who has been bold and decisive in his pursuit of revenge; no tortured philosophizing here.

Abdu’s Hamlet is the butt of many jokes. On one hand, it was never meant to be an “accurate translation.” But on the other, it was still meant to be Hamlet, somehow. There’s much to be said about the social function of this Hamlet, in the days of early Arabic theatre, under British rule. Hussein Omar has opined that now in the Arab World, “Hamlet is invoked by Gulfie preachers and Syrian secularists in exactly the same way to make contradictory claims. He has become an empty and capacious symbol, his words used to argue anything and its exact opposite.” Of course, this also happens in English. It is impossible to draw a line between what Hamlet is and is not. On the other hand, perhaps to do so would be unfaithful to Hamlet, the crown prince of indecision.

Other (more faithful) Arabic renderings of the play followed Abdu’s. Jabra Ibrahim Jabra, a giant of Arabic fiction, poetry, criticism, and visual art who also translated “King Lear,” “Macbeth,” and “Othello”—as well as championing Faulkner and translating the Sound and the Fury—translated Hamlet in 1960. In his introduction, he describes a Hamlet tormented by doubts about the trustworthiness of his own senses and the reality they perceive. Jabra comments, almost offhand, that “whoever tries to analyze the tragedy of life ends up suddenly participating in the execution of that tragedy.”

The difficulty in writing an essay about Hamlets is choosing what to include. What is Hamlet, and why? What most interests me in Jabra’s statement is the implication that our interpretive choices force us to bear certain responsibilities. In thinking about Hamlet, especially across languages, and on a plane cutting obliquely through the personal and the global, we opt in to a conversation about grief, indecision, ethical responsibility, and action or inaction. For me, I have realized, certain threads peek out repeatedly: from my research, my imagination, and my memories. Together, they make something that might look nothing like Hamlet but has everything to do with Hamlet. I am hesitant, but in this essay I will pull them long.


“Don’t take it personally,” he says.

How can I explain that I take language personally, especially Arabic?

“Don’t globalize,” she says.

How can I explain that my globalizing is something I like about myself?

I like writing that goes somewhere else, out of my own head. I like the process of that going, from me to elsewhere. To more.


I’ve written three papers about Hamlet.

The first: in high school, I thought constantly about my body and the other bodies. I felt that I was only a stomach. That I folded badly. Was disheveled with tubing and growing crooked into thoughts less and less sayable. Needed stapling. Wanted to escape from the anxiety of the safe second. The feeling like a snail swimming. The snail swimming in me, and me being the snail: the rest of it excess, peeking out in pouting bubbles. The backstroke of blood in fear. “Some enterprise that hath a stomach in’t,” that’s what Fortinbras is up to. Eating up Denmark like a teenage girl trying to fill the space around a mollusk C-clamped like an achy stomach, poor thing. What bodies had made the clothes I was wearing? Where were they, were they fed, calloused, scraped, slept, what were they paid? How were synthetic fibers made and put together, without seeable space, like sentences dazzling, machine-stapled, silvered, packaged? Find ways to distract yourself from this inaction.

The second: in college, I thought constantly about time and its out-of-jointness, and colonial violence, and alternative modernities, and how to fill the bloody space between myself— clamping and gawping at the moments of distractedness that are where we’re supposed to live, here in the “First World,” adult moments, shopping, earning, sometimes checking the news to stay stitched in, in fibrillary spasms of awareness, minute pain-shocks of empathy, “absent thee from felicity awhile”—between myself and the rest, the doubtful rest of things.

The third: in London, about the Tanyus Abdu translation. When I counted calories and ran miles and tried to make my coil-self a converter of hope. Avoided questions I couldn’t answer. Twenty-two, abroad, brazen as a Baltic peninsula. Felt, occasionally, noble.


In this production, my friend A is playing Claudius. Hamlet crests over him, plastic sword trembling. Through the space between the sword’s point and the hairs tiptoeing on A’s neck, I can see a spotlight’s glare thud onto the sunken floor. We are in a former library that feels like a swimming pool. My gaze meets Hamlet’s in the part of A’s hair. “Now I might do it pat, now he is praying; and now I’ll do’t,” and our eyes huddle and plot on the pink line of scalp as those three “now”s tick by. When does Hamlet lose his resolve—which “now”? Twitchy horny anxious student, he thinks his way out of hatred and into what he’s good at—overthinking. If he killed a praying Claudius, “that would be scann’d.” He’s worried about the eyes that would scrutinize his deed, and although I know he means his father’s eyes and maybe God’s, I feel the weight of my vision, too, leaning against his on the round of A’s skull in its gold foil crown, and I realize that all these looks from the audience are holding the sword point suspended with their hot horror, turning it back toward Hamlet, as later when I learn what a panic attack is and how the armament of words and ideas gets dragged back around to north, to you, to unleash its swords or its slings and arrows on you, and now—a later “now”—remembering I feel the nausea of Hamlet hating himself and wanting his too too sullied flesh to melt. And there is Claudius, that statue with his crown clutching the hairs and the commerce of looks.

A’s parents sit in the front row. The family is religious. Praying is not acting. But now they are watching their son pray as a man who has murdered his brother. Or really, the prayer must be coming from somewhere in between A and Claudius, where a shared truth drapes.

I am certain that A is really praying. He is mesmerizing: sparkling with certainty in God. Nerve shocks glint up and down his bowed back. The sweltering moment feels like a floor on my knees: the same floor where A’s lips are slipping and scrambling. The thick seconds itch. The moment lasts for years.


R and I are in the lobby of The Public Theatre waiting to see Elevator Repair Service’s experimental production of “The Sound and the Fury.” We’ve read four Faulkners together and we know his whorling-river language with an intensity we can feel, warm and braiding in the wadis of our friendship. The first chapter of the novel, Benjy’s incoherent time-out-of-joint-ed monologue, has been divided amongst the actors of the company, who switch roles without notice. One minute Caddy is an older black man, Quentin a young white woman. Faulkner’s text, word-for-word, zooms between these bodies rushing in and out of possession. It’s a masterpiece.

R is asking me what I think about God. Later I don’t remember exactly what he asks or exactly what I say, although he probably does. The lobby is garish with noise; bright block capitals King Kong off the signs on the walls, then evaporate into a chatter of voices and gestures. “He that made us with such large discourse.” It feels different than any other moment before or since. “Now, whether it be bestial oblivion, or some craven scruple of thinking too precisely on the event,” I don’t know. Part of my self is melting out across the borders between characters. The language is shared like the weather. I pool with care, feel safe and seen, welling blue with the rightness of it.


Female friendship is most beautiful because of the gestures of care, small and frequent, that feel like gifts. In the giving and receiving, these women’s bodies are, finally, momentarily, unbreakable wholes. Bisque, brown or white: fired, safe, without need of protective glazing. Receiving the gifts of small complements, quick fierce hugs, questions tempered with kindness.“Rich gifts wax poor when givers prove unkind,” so here is a shoulder, here is an unhurried moment in trust, here is a careful cross-mending of what has been scattered.

I am heartbroken and afraid on an overnight bus. One skin is not enough. I sit with G, a culinary student and a stranger. She offers me her voice and I put it on.

D drives me to the woods. The redwoods wear soft threads and we pet their bark. When I have finished crying, we walk on. We leave a long channel in the leaves. Their stems continue to twitch in the current that lingers after two close shoulders.

J and I decide to pretend we’re in a movie and tell a bartender all our problems. We talk and talk, quite quite down, woe is me. The bartender listens and sympathizes. As a counselor, he is not a Polonius, but a Horatio. Luckily. But at some point he has other customers to tend to. We carry on, our voices soft and wet and dark as New York night. We sip each other’s stories.

M and I were once close but haven’t seen one another in years. It’s time to catch up. I go to her flat, and she has cooked a fabulous meal. The vegetables lie, big and bright and friendly, on the dish. Slowly we eat, and they settle in our stomachs, one by one filling the pocks from acid brands and poison pricks. Dessert, wine. Together we wash the bowls with soft sponges.

L and I are in Japan, at a hot spring. There are nine women, naked, in the water. Across from us, the mountain is sighing pink blossoms. When L’s face is red, we get out. “Too much of water hast thou, poor Ophelia.” And too much of flowers. Hamlet has Horatio, but where is Ophelia’s best friend?

It was in the waiting room at Planned Parenthood that I understood, suddenly, what miraculous places are like.

Why would anyone be surprised that Ophelia ends her lament of Hamlet’s madness by bemoaning “that unmatched form and feature of blown youth blasted with ecstasy”? Women are used to feeling blows of language in their bodies, knocking reason into a scatter of shame. If Hamlet’s reason has collapsed, then his beautiful young body must feel it, too. This Hamlet, this village of identities gathered loosely into a boy’s borders—its very ground is under attack.

If reason itself can be warped to serve oppression, the bodies it casts out beyond “reasonable doubt” — female, brown, queer, “different” bodies — must feel the aftershocks, must be in need of help in the form of second skins, third shoulders. A gift of question marks, the upper chamber open, inviting muscles to slacken in response, then repose, and coil in sleep lifted high above the danger of what might have been just a period.


Ophelias Zimmer (Ophelia’s Room) — directed by Katie Mitchell, written by Alice Birch, and designed by Chloe Lamford — was a recent joint production between Berlin’s Schaubuhne and London’s Royal Court Theatre, “a new work exploring Ophelia, freed from Hamlet.” For two hours, over five acts — five, because that is the number of scenes in which Ophelia appears in Hamlet — we watch time crawl by as Ophelia remains in her room: her own bleak, isolated, claustrophobic “nunnery.” From offstage, we hear Claudius and Polonius calling her constantly. But at least the space is mostly private, until Hamlet begins invading it in increasingly violent ways: sending longwinded, obscene and insulting tape-recorded “love letters,” barging in and forcing her to watch him dance, and finally dragging in her dead father’s body and thrusting it at her. As she becomes increasingly overwhelmed by this emotional and physical violence, the stage gradually fills with water. You know what happens in the end.

Since 2011, Katie Mitchell—formerly of the Royal Shakespeare Company and the Royal Court— has been working outside the UK, driven away by the vicious critical backlash her work has often produced. (A recent Guardian piece dubbed her “British theatre’s queen in exile.”) In 2006, she was accused of mutilating Chekhov’s The Seagull beyond recognition. Critics distinguish her work by its “naturalism,” “psychological exactitude,” and “unswerving feminism.” Her directing process is known to be demanding and “all-consuming.” She rips out the seams of classic plays, revealing the terrified, abused, violated women who cower in their shadows. Most recently, the National Theatre staged her production of Sarah Kane’s Cleansed: notorious for its graphic scenes of torture and sex and its unrelentingly miserable tone. Audience members fainted.

Kane committed suicide in 1999. One of Mitchell’s goals, apparent in several of her productions, is to force her audiences to see female suicides—in theatre as in life—not as iterations of a generic type of melodramatic plot twist, but as unbearably real, singular events of self-destruction in response to specific acts of violence, whether physical, emotional, or societal. No more “women’s suicide,” but one woman’s suicide (Ophelia’s), then another’s (Sarah Kane’s), then another’s. No etcetera. No easy conclusions to draw.


Scottish novelist Ali Smith’s There But For The (2011) is one of the best novels I’ve read about empathy. Like Hamlet, it cuts obliquely. Another novel like this is (Lebanese) Alexandra Chreiteh’s Always Coca Cola (2009), which tries to let young Lebanese women talk about their bodies—tampons, waxing, chapstick, pregnancy, and all—in a way they never have before in Arabic literature.

Like Hamlet, both novels are full of chattery characters feeding greedily off words, but as in Hamlet—and as, perhaps, in any case requiring empathy—the words that would tell us explicitly what to feel when are missing. The empathy comes in when we fill in what’s missing in Hamlet’s story, Ophelia’s; or, in Smith’s novel, Miles’s, Mark’s, Jennifer’s; or, in Sarah Kane’s last plays, even the basic divisions between characters who speak in an undifferentiated mass of language that is among them like the world is among Z and me and Katie Mitchell and a Syrian boy on a Turkish beach and a woman somewhere of unknown race and a person who is outside of gender altogether. The idea of “world” is that which is between them. So if all the world’s a prison, says Hamlet, nevertheless, “there is nothing good or bad, but thinking makes it so.”

This could be a bleak prophecy of the dangers of over-thinking.

Or it could be a reason why writing and reading are so important.


Since the first Arabic translation of Hamlet appeared on stage in Egypt in 1901, the play and its elusive, indecisive protagonist have been cultural mainstays of the Arab World. Transplanting “canonical” works—their splaying roots grown in a soil where economic and cultural capital are routed to run richly to Europe and leave the Global South dry —to a colonial or postcolonial context is always a thoroughly political enterprise. The play has become a mold to be fashioned into political allegory in allegiance to or rejection of a given political regime, and the Hamlets of different periods in modern Arab history—newly interpreted, reinvented, or ripped apart—have reflected oscillations in political feeling, from patriotic pride to bitter disillusionment. In the recently translated collection Four Hamlet Plays, Margaret Litvin contends that it is accurate to consider “the Arab Hamlet play” a bona fide literary genre. From the beginning, the Arabic Hamlet has had a complicated cultural pedigree: Tanyus Abdus’s inaugural translation used Alexandre Dumas’s loose 1847 French translation as a base, and two later, wildly experimental riffs on Shakespeare’s tragedy—Yuri Lyubimov’s 1971 Russian version and Heiner Müller’s postmodern 1979 Hamletmachine—produced shock waves in Arabic theatre far more intense than their effects in Western Europe. In 2010, for instance, the Beirut-based Zoukak Theatre Company staged Hamletmachine 2. This rewriting of Heiner Müller’s rewriting finds the young Dane “burdened with the history of collapses, failures and depressions, [and] damaged revolution.”

The first of the four Hamlet plays is Nabyl Lahlou’s Ophelia Is Not Dead (Morocco, 1968), in which Hamlet and Macbeth discuss history, politics, and the absent Ophelia. In the second, Mamduh Udwan’s Hamlet Wakes Up Late (Syria, 1976) targets political corruption. Then Jordanian Nader Omran, in his 1984 A Theatre Company Found a Theatre and Theatred “Hamlet,” depicts a troupe trying to mount a production of Hamlet under the tyrannical gazes of a conservative royal family and a palace guard (read: censor). Omran turns Hamlet inside out: Shakespeare’s play takes the place of The Mousetrap. Finally, in Iraqi playwright Jawad al-Assadi’s Forget Hamlet (2000), supporting characters steal Hamlet’s most famous lines (in Jabra Ibrahim Jabra’s translation), spitting them at him sarcastically as they watch him flounder impotently, unable to defend himself against the savage cruelty of a Saddam-like Claudius.

In the original, Hamlet insists to Ophelia that he has never sent her any letters, and to Laertes that he was not himself when he was cruel to her. How many selves does Hamlet have, and who are they? How much responsibility does each have for the others? What does it mean when this slippery shadow of a Hamlet appears, every once in a while, in some remembered slaughter of grief, or some theatre of global war, daring us to evade the burden of bearing with him his fate?


Z had mentioned postdramatic theatre. So on a London Monday in February, the sky slashed with icy rain, I was in the back of a very dark coffee shop, caffeinatedly cat’s-cradling the rubberband off an Arabic flashcard stack, reading Heiner Müller’s Hamletmachine.

Hamletmachine is a postmodern dismemberment of Hamlet in five short scenes. It has been called an allegory for the condition of the intellectual in post-war East Germany. (Hamlet to Horatio: “I knew that you’re an actor. I’m one too, I play Hamlet. Denmark is a concentration camp, between us grows a Wall.”) Most of the play, and all of the fourth scene, is a monologue by Hamlet (or “Hamlet-Actor,” who announces, “I am not Hamlet. I play no role anymore. My words have nothing more to say to me. My thoughts suck the blood of images.”) It was Z who reminded me that there are things that—here and now—seem like clichés but were once brilliantly original. Hamletmachine is in that category. Anyway, it seems to me that English is too preoccupied with ratting out clichés. What is old news for one person, in one language, in one body, might not be for someone else, half a world away. There’s the rub.

Heiner Müller instructs us that Ophelia has a clock for a heart. Before she appears, Hamlet has opined that her heart “sheds my tears,” and it’s right to think that Hamlet’s crying has a lot to do with time. He’s one of those boys who cry because of abstracts like time but doesn’t mind telling his mother that he wants to stuff her corpse in a drainhole.

Müller’s Ophelia introduces herself, “I am Ophelia. She who the river could not hold. The woman on the gallows The woman with the slashed arteries The woman with the overdose ON THE LIPS SNOW The woman with the head in the gas-oven. Yesterday I stopped killing myself.”

In 2013, Los Angeles’s City Garage Theatre produced Magda Romanska’s Opheliamachine, a response to Müller. Hamlet slouches zombielike in front of the television. Ophelia is split in three: The Brain, who writes defiant monologues on a typewriter; the vengeful vigilante Terrorist; and the Mad, constricting herself out of existence with torturous self-loathing. A KCRW review likens it to 4.48 Psychosis, Sarah Kane’s last play and, essentially, her suicide note. Critical opinions were divided.

I didn’t see Opheliamachine, but I think it’s important that a woman made something after the words words words had been said and scrutinized, drawn, quartered.

In Arabic, tafrigh means emptying, catharsis, and dictation; all three, because writing things down empties them from the memory onto the page. After that, the silence of the ended call, to sleep perchance to dream, then to wake up and have washed the yesterdays off shoulders now freed to carry what’s in store. But an essay isn’t just about emptying. It should make something strong enough to help share our—not merely, or even most importantly, my—bearing.


Play-within-a-play, Act I:

The Syrian Trojan Women Project began in Amman in 2013. Under the leadership of English filmmaker Charlotte Eager, a group of Syrian women—refugees in Jordan—created a collaborative theatre piece weaving their personal narratives into the text of Euripides’s The Trojan Women. Yasmin Fedda’s 2014 documentary Queens of Syria documents this therapeutic and creative labor. The play will appear at London’s Young Vic for three weeks in July 2016.

There are always dangers to calling something—like “the Arabic Hamlet play” or “Syrian refugee theatre”—a genre. But benefits, too. Theatre is something real that Syrian refugees right now are doing, saying, making. Antigone of Syria was a two-month workshop in Beirut in 2014 in which thirty-five Syrian refugee women wove their personal stories into Sophocles’s tragedy. It was conceived as “a safe place to express their bodies and their minds.” The documentary We Are Not Princesses documents their process, which culminated in three performances at Beirut’s Al Madina Theatre. The Caravan was a street theatre piece that drew on and incorporated recorded interviews with refugees from the Bekaa valley. Terrestrial Journeys was a six-week project in winter 2015 in which Syrian and Palestinian refugee women collaboratively devised an original piece, then performed in Beirut. This spring, a refugee cast performed Love Boat—directed by Syrian actor-in-exile Nawar Bulbul—which incorporated scenes by Aristophanes, Molière, Shakespeare, and others, scenes that speak to their experiences.

On the struts and trusses and trellises of a Greek anti-war tragedy nearly two-and-a-half millennia old, these people—refugees, actors, but first and foremost people— have built a structure from their painful stories. A structure in many senses: a way of making corners, walls, aisles for the passage of compassion, tiers of seats for the beginnings of witnessing; that is, shareable meaning. A sanctuary and a museum of experiences. A place to call a beginning for empathy. A place for the sharing of a world like bodies bearing their own weights on the close seats, sharing the heat of an auditorium, the conversation of breaths and coughs, the dirge as clenches of compassion travel over the wave. The play’s the thing: Hamlet is a play about the possibilities of theatre, “whose end, both at the first and now, was and is to hold, as ‘twere, the mirror up to nature, to show virtue her own feature, scorn her own image, and the very age and body of the time his form and pressure.”


Play-within-a-play, Act II:

In Shotgun Players’ recent production of Hamlet in Berkeley, California, the actors begin empty. Their roles are written on slips of paper, dropped in Yorick’s plastic skull, waiting to be picked. The entire cast, then, must memorize the entire play and be ready to play any part—no easy feat.

The most beautiful moment I witnessed came near the end of Act III, when the actress playing Claudius forgot a line. She said “line” without stepping out of character. Her voice snapped “line,” deep, villainous, frightening. After the prompter read the words, she folded them elegantly into Claudius, who boomed them, arms closing the sentence in powerful brackets.

I could feel everything shift. The audience had tensed with her shame when she said “line.” Now, we were luminescent with his power, her power, our power. Suddenly, the space thrummed with solidarity. We were all in this together. Whoever tries to analyze ends up participating. Whoever watches the shoulders square boldly back into kingship contributes—and receives—some of their strength.


Heiner Müller’s Ophelia says, “Yesterday I stopped killing myself.”

I, too, have a problem with wanting to be in control of all the conceptual space. I want to take responsibility for things like Hamlet’s madness. Saying that it’s fictional, or was written four centuries ago, or is his own responsibility, make my heart tick and glitter Rhapsody in Blue rhythms. I understand how it is that she catches his madness, and how the madness of callously not catching it would be worse. But “yesterday I stopped killing myself,” she said in 1979, although she probably doesn’t know that in Morocco, Nabyl Lahlou had already staged her tomorrow and tomorrow and tomorrow, as Lahlou’s Macbeth reports: “Ophelia has aged a lot. She’s changed. Ophelia drinks too much. Ophelia has lost her memory, or nearly lost it. Ah! Where is the true time of Ophelia when Ophelia was still the real Ophelia?”

That is the question: did Ophelia have to die to be “real”? How much responsibility should I take for her death, and Shaimaa el-Sabbagh’s, and Berta Caceres’s, for Iraq, and Ferguson, and my friend T who was crying syncopated bursts over a faltering Skype connection, and the woman asking for change this morning, and for an inconsistent thing called myself? Where does the responsibility break, sit in pools on the sidewalk stage? When is “postdramatic”?

It’s like writing an essay. Taking parts from the world and binding them together, then cross-binding, tighter and tighter, bigger and bigger, like politics or thoughts or the internet, maybe, but still leaving things in the margins, the eye corners, the wings. Every metaphor makes new nodes. Cracks the clean. There is no taking responsibility for it all. Because I am thorough, or empathetic, or maximalist, or obsessive, this bothers me. The essay will always be a sloppily cut thing, splaying roots and wires. Or a weedy page-sized almost-island, mouthing and bobbing clumsily toward land. Like watching someone you love groping for words. Like watching someone you don’t know but feel for scrabbling for their voice amongst the tumbling columns of the news.

But so be it. This is only my Hamlet. My own mind trying to follow words outwards through the stammering slits, the caves lip-pursing at the screen’s white tides. Let’s not let its currents turn awry and lose the name of action.



I am a fledgling essayist, poet, and playwright as well as a Ph.D. candidate in Arabic Literature at the University of California, Berkeley. I have also lived in London and New York and worked in publishing and bookselling. My academic work focuses on abstraction, metaphor, and imagination in Arabic poetics, classical and modern. My literary essays have previously appeared in The Point (https://thepointmag.com/2016/criticism/now-they-were-corpses) and Vol. 1 Brooklyn (http://www.vol1brooklyn.com/2014/06/18/pressing/).

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