Special Series: Hyphenated Identity: An Evening of the Spoken Word with Lawrence Joseph and Hala Alyan

Tue, November 25, 2014 7:00 pm at Alwan for the Arts

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This presentation of poetry by two Arab-American writers is somewhat contradictory, for it attempts to capture a particular ethos of the hyphenated identity through the poetic imagination of two very different writers, from different generations, with different experiences. On the face of it, it is an impossibility.

Lawrence Joseph's language exerts pressure, is tense and imbricated in the details of life. It is the raw material in its syntax, words and grammar of social, political or historical narrative. The sound of the language even in its depiction of landscapes resonates harrowingly. It calculatingly and deliberately resists performitivity and opts instead for interiority, the bewildered and melancholic cries of consciousness crafted into the crisp language and poise of an indignant, dignified and towering voice.

Hala Alyan's poetry is picturesque and spatial, cognizant of a painterly aesthetics of word arrangement, visually performative in its pace and gestures. Words are looked at from different angles and twisted reflections as to create the possibilities for alternative meanings, as in an ocular experience that is leafing through one image after the next, page after page, to grasp elegantly the representation of experience or feeling. Imageries are original, personal and intimate, yet vivified in fervent passion and clairvoyant focus.

Both however share the ubiquitous continuity of the immigrant, coming from somewhere else- "Lebanonized" as it were, to borrow from Lawrence Joseph. As such, they offer to the audience and reader each an individual voice that make them worthy of carrying the distinct ascription of a poet, sharing in an event that is not commodified by competition between voices, but rather by the edified realm of the "multitude of voices" that is the poetic expression of a people, their history, experience and civilization.


Lebanese-Syrian poet and Professor of Law, LAWRENCE JOSEPH was born in Detroit and received his BA and JD from the University of Michigan, and a second BA and MA in English from Cambridge University. Lawrence is the author of several collections of poetry, including Codes, Precepts, Biases, and Taboos: Poems 1973–1993 (2005), Shouting at No One (1983) and Into It (2005), in addition to numerous other works of poetry and prose. Among his awards are a Guggenheim Fellowship, two National Endowment for the Arts poetry fellowships and the Agnes Lynch Starrett Prize. He is the third recipient of the New York County Lawyers Association’s “Law and Literature Award”. His poetry has been widely anthologized, including in The Oxford Book of American Poetry (2006). Lawrence has taught creative writing at Princeton University and is presently Tinnelly Professor of Law at St. John's University School of Law in New York City.

HALA ALYAN is an award winning Palestinian-American poet. Having recently completed her doctorate in clinical psychology, she currently resides in New York. Alyan has lived in various parts of the United States and the Middle East, from Oklahoma to Beirut. Alyan’s poetry has appeared or is forthcoming in numerous journals, including Copper Nickel, CALYX, and The Missouri Review. Her first full-length poetry collection, “Atrium,” published by Three Rooms Press, was recently awarded the 2013 Arab American Book Award in Poetry. Her second poetry collection, entitled “Four Cities,” is forthcoming by Black Lawrence Press in 2015.


Alwan's programs are made possible, in part, with public funds from the New York State Council of the Arts (NYSCA) and New York City Department of Cultural Affairs in Partnership with the City Council.

Last updated: 2014-11-16 19:37:02

Lawrence Joseph & Hala Alyan
Lawrence Joseph & Hala Alyan

Alwan for the Arts

16 Beaver Street, 4th Floor
(between Broad St. and Broadway)
New York, NY 10004
(646) 732-3261

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