In Her Feminine Sign by Dunya Mikhail
PBS Autumn Wild Card 2019
At the heart of In Her Feminine Sign, Dunya Mikhail’s luminous new collection of poems, is the Arabic suffix taamarbuta, ‘the tied circle’ – a circle with two dots above it that indicates a feminine word, or sign. This tied circle transforms into the moon, a stone that binds friendship, birdsong over ruins, and a hymn to Nisaba, the goddess of writing. With a deceptive simplicity and disquieting humour reminiscent of Wisława Szymborska, and a lyricism wholly her own, Mikhail slips between her childhood in Baghdad and her present life in Detroit, between Ground Zero and a mass grave, tracing new circles of light.