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Al-Mutannabi Street

Saturday, March 5 – 12pm
Al-Mutannabi Street Starts Here
– an open reading, with guests

A commemorative gathering outside the Shabandar Cafe on March 5, 2017, the tenth anniversary of the decimation of Baghdad’s Al-Mutanabbi Street, a street of booksellers, by car bomb on March 5, 2007.

Al-Mutannabi Street in Baghdad, a nexus of booksellers for a thousand years, was decimated by a car bomb on March 5, 2007. Fifteen years on, poets around the world read on the anniversary of that sad day, to imagine a better world.

The Shabandar Cafe on Al-Mutannabi Street, which opened as a cafe in 1917 on the premises of a printing press, was destroyed in the attack though later rebuilt. Five sons of the cafe’s owner, Mohammad al-Khashali, were killed in the blast.

The Shabandar has been a gathering place for writers and intellectuals for generations. It continues thus. And the booksellers have returned to their trade.

Time and again, culture has won out over the greed for power and for domination of the individual and the community. It will be ever thus.

Diane di Prima wrote, “The only war that matters is the war on the imagination.” It’s a war with many casualties, many tragedies, yet culture endures.

This afternoon, poems will be read, including a few of Abū al-Ṭayyib Aḥmad ibn Al-Ḥusayn Al-Mutanabbī Al-Kindī, the tenth century ‘Abbāsid Arab poet at the court of Sayf al-Dawla in Aleppo, for whom the street was named. If you wish to read, we welcome you to do so. Each year, the organization Al-Mutanabbi Street Starts Here, initiated and tended lovingly by the San Francisco poet and bookseller Beau Beausoleil, encourages a proliferation of these readings; for fifteen years, it has continuously solicited, encouraged and facilitated the efforts of poets, printers and book artists to commemorate the bombing through the production of broadsides, exhibits and readings worldwide.

Today’s reading will be dedicated as well to the appalling and horrific war now being rained down upon the Ukrainian nation.

If you would like to read, please call or email the bookshop and speak to Eric, the proprietor, or Michael, who staffs the store afternoons Tuesday to Thursday and co-hosts with Jerry Ferraz our first Mondays poetry reading series.

Our informal reading will be streamed on the Bird & Beckett YouTube channel or Facebook page. Search those platforms for Bird & Beckett live and you’ll undoubtedly find us there.

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.

The BBCLP is a 501(c)(3) non-profit...
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