Poems from Guantanamo

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Since 2002, at least 775 men have been held in the U.S. detention center at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba. According to Department of Defense data, fewer than half of them are accused of committing any hostile act against the United States or its allies. In hundreds of cases, even the circumstances of their initial detainment are questionable.

This collection gives voice to the men held at Guantánamo. Available only because of the tireless efforts of pro bono attorneys who submitted each line to Pentagon scrutiny, Poems...

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Since 2002, at least 775 men have been held in the U.S. detention center at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba. According to Department of Defense data, fewer than half of them are accused of committing any hostile act against the United States or its allies. In hundreds of cases, even the circumstances of their initial detainment are questionable.

This collection gives voice to the men held at Guantánamo. Available only because of the tireless efforts of pro bono attorneys who submitted each line to Pentagon scrutiny, Poems from Guantánamo brings together twenty-two poems by seventeen detainees, most still at Guantánamo, in legal limbo.

If, in the words of Audre Lorde, poetry “forms the quality of light within which we predicate our hopes and dreams toward survival and change,” these verses—some originally written in toothpaste, others scratched onto foam drinking cups with pebbles and furtively handed to attorneys—are the most basic form of the art.

Death Poem by Jumah al Dossari
Take my blood.
Take my death shroud and
The remnants of my body.
Take photographs of my corpse at the grave, lonely.

Send them to the world,
To the judges and
To the people of conscience,
Send them to the principled men and the fair-minded.

And let them bear the guilty burden before the world,
Of this innocent soul.
Let them bear the burden before their children and before history,
Of this wasted, sinless soul,
Of this soul which has suffered at the hands of the "protectors or peace."

Jumah al Dossari is a thirty-three-year old Bahraini who has been held at Guantanamo Bay for more than five years. He has been in solitary confinement since the end of 2003 and, according to the U.S. military, has tried to kill himself twelve times while in custody.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher

"At last Guantanamo has found its voice."--Gore Vidal

"Poetry, art of the human voice, helps turn us toward what we should or must not ignore. Speaking as they can across barriers actual and figurative, translated into our American tongue, these voices in confinement implicitly call us to our principles and to our humanity. They deserve, above all, not admiration or belief or sympathy-but attention. Attention to them is urgent for us."-Robert Pinsky

"Poems from Guantanamo brings to light figures of concrete, individual humanity,against the fabric of cruelty woven by the 'war on terror.' The poems and poets' biographies reveal one dimension of this officially obscured narrative, from the perspective of the sufferers; the legal and literary essays provide the context which has produced--under atrocious circumstances--a poetics of human dignity."--Adrienne Rich

Yochi J. Dreazen, The Wall Street Journal:
"Inmates at the U.S. military prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, used pebbles to scratch messages into the foam cups they got with their meals. When the guards weren't looking, they passed the cups from cell to cell. It was a crude but effective way of communicating.
    The prisoners weren't passing along escape plans or information about future terrorist attacks. They were sending one another poems."

Kate Allen, director, Amnesty International UK:
"The poems in this collection were written against enormous odds. The men detained in Guantanamo Bay are routinely held in solitary confinement, condemned without a fair trial, many of them tortured. Through it all, some have taken sanctuary in poetry, and through this small volume we hear voices and glimpse their innermost feelings. Their poems are a remarkable and moving testament to the power of the human spirit."

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781587296062
  • Publisher: University of Iowa Press
  • Publication date: 8/15/2007
  • Pages: 84
  • Sales rank: 1,097,618
  • Product dimensions: 5.10 (w) x 8.10 (h) x 0.50 (d)

Meet the Author

Marc Falkoff is an assistant professor at the Northern Illinois University College of Law and attorney for seventeen Guantánamo prisoners. Flagg Miller is a linguistic and cultural anthropologist at the University of Wisconsin–Madison. Ariel Dorfman is a Chilean American poet, novelist, playwright, and human rights activist who holds the Walter Hines Page Chair of Literature and Latin American Studies at Duke University.
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Table of Contents

Acknowledgments     ix
Notes on Guantanamo   Marc Falkoff     1
Forms of Suffering in Muslim Prison Poetry   Flagg Miller     7
They Fight for Peace   Shaker Abdurraheem Aamer     19
O Prison Darkness   Abdulaziz     21
I Shall Not Complain   Abdulaziz     23
To My Father   Abdullah Thani Faris al Anazi     24
Lions in the Gage   Ustad Badruzzaman Badr     27
Homeward Bound   Moazzam Begg     29
Death Poem   Jumah al Dossari     31
They Cannot Help   Shaikh Abdurraheem Muslim Dost     33
Shaikh Abdurraheem Muslim Dost     35
Shaikh Abdurraheem Muslim Dost     35
Two Fragments   Shaikh Abdurraheem Muslim Dost     36
First Poem of My Life   Mohammed el Gharani     37
Humiliated in the Shackles   Sami al Haj     41
The Truth   Emad Abdullah Hassan     44
Is It True?   Osama Abu Kabir     49
Hunger Strike Poem   Adnan Farhan Abdul Latif     51
I Am Sorry, My Brother   Othman Abdulraheem Mohammad     53
Terrorist 2003   Martin Mubanga     55
I Write My Hidden Longing, Abdulla Majid al Noaimi, the Captive of Dignity     58
My Heart Was Wounded by the Strangeness, Abdulla Majid al Noaimi, the Captive of Dignity     61
Ode to the Sea   Ibrahim al Rubaish     64
Even if the Pain   Siddiq Turkestani     67
Where the Buried Flame Burns   Ariel Dorfman     69
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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 31, 2008

    Voices from Gulag Americana

    While a vast majority of Americans now recognize that the Bush regime's illegal War on Iraq was a fraudulent one based on made-up claims of Saddam's nonexistent WMDs, a sizable minority still believe that the U.S. launched the invasion in order to democratize Baghdad. However, if the truth about America's torture chambers--primarily in Guantanmao but also in Abu Ghraib and dozens of other 'black sites' across the Globe--were widely publicized, any remaining lukewarm public support for America's 'Operations Enduring Fiefdoms' in Iraq & Afghanistan would likely evaporate like so much hot air around the White House. Poems from Guantanamo is a collection of 22 poems by inmates from the U.S. dungeon in Guantanamo, where hundreds of 'detainees' have been incarcerated since 2002'(only 8% of them are even accused of being al Qaeda fighters, only 5% were captured by U.S. forces on the battlefields & less than half are accused of hostile acts against the United States, according to Pentagon's own documents!) Most have been tortured, and all of them have endured humiliations and inhumane treatment that are totally banned by the Geneva Conventions on combatants & civilians. Despite all the oppressive circumstances, many of the prisoners endured their deprivations by writing down their thoughts. And thanks to the valiant efforts by independent lawyers and the Center of Constitutional Rights, this small but poignant collection of 22 poems from the incarcerated have finally seen the light of day, despite heavy & persistent military censorship. These poems represent the powerful voices of those forgotten prisoners, who are not even entitled to the most basic rules of law in civilized scociety such as the right to see charges made against them or the right to present evidence to challenge their illegal'and apparently endless'detentions. This is a valuable first hand document--among an increasing mountain of anecdotal and written evidence--that will show the world the true nature of the USA's imperial wars of colonial occupation in the Middle East. If enough concerned citizens are exposed to these facts, there will undoubtedly be a massive public campaign to charge those top U.S. officials responsible for these grostesque torture policies for their war crimes.

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