Lebanese Joud Haidar received the honorable mention for his extraordinary poem in the 2022 Association of Writers and Writing Programs (AWP)’s Intro Journals Project, which took place in Philadelphia, United States.
The St. Olaf College Lebanese student, in Northfield, Minnesota, was honored for his poem “Khalil Hawi’s Neighbor,” which reflects life in Lebanon during the Civil War and the Israeli invasion of Beirut in 1982.
Khalil Hawi, to whom the poem is dedicated, was a talented poet who took his life after witnessing the Israeli Army’s invasion of Beirut.
Joud Haidar wanted to reflect on his own ideas and fears regarding what Hawi did from the perspective of his neighbor and try to understand what had pushed him to act in such an extreme way.
As per a comment from St. Olaf Professor of English, Jennifer Kwon Dobbs, Joud’s poem was selected from thousands of submitted entries.
“What makes this poem extraordinary is its unflinching commitment to that neighborly intimacy, to life, and the poet’s powerful gestures and words in resistance to an occupying force’s destruction and forced removals,” Kwon Dobbs noted.
The final lines of Joud’s poem, Dobbs commented, are a “searing act of attention” as he asks in his poem “who will nurture the blossom of memory, who will mourn with their tears, who will give witness as only a neighbor can?”
“Khalil Hawi’s Neighbor” poem will be published on the AWP website to recognize his work.
According to the St. Olaf College’s website, Joud Haidar is currently working on his poetry book and hopes to also start writing in his native language in the future.