The lives we live are dazzling, depressing, endless, brief, humiliating, boring, exquisite–and chaotic, until we endow them with stories and shapes. Structure–in a story, in an essay, in a life–holds meaning, gives meaning space to luxuriate and come to terms with itself. Writer and translator Lina Mounzer is a master of deploying elegant and innovative structures in her lyric essays. To read her essays is to wander alongside a fierce, generous mind on a serpentine, intentional path through fairy tales, war zones, steam-filled kitchens, clattering dinner parties, stunningly-bright middle school classrooms, light-filled libraries…
Through closely reading and (I hope!) deeply discussing Lina Mounzer’s essays “War in Translation” and “Mama’s Kitchen,” we will, over the course of two 3-hour sessions, generate new writing and use structural and organizational techniques to expand upon, and add meaning to, that newly-generated writing. Finally, we will respond to each others’ fresh work using unconventional methods.
On August 4th, a massive explosion shattered the city of Beirut, the hometown of my dear friend Lina Mounzer, the author whose work this class will examine. Coincidentally, she had published in op-ed in the New York Times the day before the incident, describing the dire financial circumstances of the country. The following day, an explosion created a crater 42 meters deep and 210 meters wide–a hole the size of a 12-story building. The force of the explosion flattened buildings, caused balconies to drop, and blasted windows up to 15 kilometers away. The death toll is 157 (and climbing); the injured number 5,000; the displaced exceed 300,000. Her account and contextualization of the disaster can also be read about in the New York Times, in an op-ed published the day after the explosion. The ultimate goal in offering this course, in addition to examining the work of a master, is to raise funds for relief organizations working to help the citizens of Beirut, a city which was already mired in a deep economic crisis.
War in Translation
NYT op-ed the day before the explosion
NYT op-ed after the explosion
TO PAY FOR THIS CLASS:
1) Choose the Pay in Full option on the registration page;
2) Select the pay by Venmo option, which will hold your place in the class.
3) Send a 100 dollar donation to Embrace Lebanon or the Lebanese Red Cross (links below).
4) Take a photo or screenshot of the recept/payment, attach it to an email with the subject BEIRUT, and send it to firstname.lastname@example.org
Links to organizations that are providing relief efforts in Beirut:
Emily Bludworth de Barrios is the author of one book of poems, Splendor (H_NGM_N 2015), and two chapbooks: Women, Money, Children, Ghosts (Sixth Finch 2016) and Extraordinary Power (Factory Hollow Press 2014). Her poems have most recently appeared in jubilat, The Harvard Review, Gulf Coast, Columbia Journal, and The Poetry Review. She received her MFA from the University of Massachusetts at Amherst and also holds degrees from Goldsmiths College and The College of William and Mary. She was born in Houston and raised in Houston, Cairo, and Caracas; she now lives in Houston. Her website is www.emilybludworthdebarrios.com.