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Al-Mutanabbi Street Starts Here:
a reading to commemorate the March 5th, 2007 destruction of Baghdad’s Bookseller’s Street
Thursday, March 5th, 2020 – 7pm

Al-Mutanabbi Street destroyed by car bomb, March 5, 2007. Photo AP / Khalid Mohammed.

“The only war is the war on the imagination”
– Diane di Prima

Tehmina Khan, Priscilla Wathington, Farzaneh Safavi, Beau Beausoleil, Walker Brents III and Jerry Ferraz read poems in commemoration of the March 5, 2007 destruction by car bomb of Al-Mutanabbi Street, Baghdad’s bookseller’s street, named for the 10th century Iraqi poet.

This tragedy, in which 26 died and a great many bookshops and stalls were decimated, marked a sad and vivid turn in the second Iraq war, which began with the American invasion in 2003.

Baghdad, Iraq: Iraqi poet Ahmed Abdel Sara recites a poem in the ruins of Baghdad’s Al-Mutanabbi street, 08 March 2007. Many poets of Baghdad have presented readings on the remains of Al-Mutanabbi street which was hit by a car bomb 06 March 2007 and claimed lives of more than 100 people. The festival was initiated by a Manodramic demonstration delivered by Iraqi theatre actor, Jabbar Mohaybes, who overtopped the burned ceiling of the well known Ibn al-Arabi publishing house, wearing a wooden box , announcing the end of the cultural life of this street as the light would not be lit again around it. (Photo: ALI AL-SAADI/AFP/Getty Images)

Ever since that event, with the motto “Al-Mutanabbi Street starts here,” poets, writers and artists across the world have sought to show solidarity with the Iraqi people by endeavoring to keep the memory of that terrible event alive through their words and art. Readings are being staged far and wide on March 5th and the days immediately around it, in which many of our most politically committed poets will address the tragedy and its implications.

Al-Mutanabbi Street, active for centuries as a street of booksellers, reopened for business and culture four years after the bombing.

Ever since the bombing, poets and artists around the world have worked to ensure that the enmity the power mad hold for thinking, questioning, creative individuals is not forgotten. These poets and artists have shown that resistance, in and of itself, is a creative act.

The March 5, 2007 car blast devastated the book market along Mutanabbi Street and also tore through the Shabandar Café, killing more than 30 people and injuring more than 100. The café’s owner lost four of his sons and a grandson in the attack. The café still stands, a testament to the resilience of the country and the capital, Baghdad.


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The Bird & Beckett Cultural Legacy Project

Our events are put on under the umbrella of the nonprofit Bird & Beckett Cultural Legacy Project (the "BBCLP"). That's how we fund our ambitious schedule of 300 or so concerts and literary events every year.

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