Hagar Poems

Hagar Poems

by Mohja Kahf


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“Mohja Kahf ’s Hagar Poems is brilliantly original in its conception, thrillingly artful in its execution. Its range is immense, its spiritual depth is profound, it negotiates its shifts between archaic and the contemporary with utmost skill. There’s lyricism, there’s satire, there’s comedy, there’s theology of a high order in this book.”

—Alicia Ostriker, author of For the Love of God: The Bible as an Open Book

“Hagar/ Hajar the immigrant/exile/outcast/refugee mother of a people is given multiple voices and significance in Mohja Kahf’s new book of dramatic monologues, which also reinvents Pharaoh’s daughter, Zuleika, Aïsha, and Mary in poems that are at once lively and learned, agnostic and devout. The sequence on an American mosque, and the poet’s ambivalent love for what it represents, is unique in American poetry.”

—Marilyn Hacker, author of A Stranger’s Mirror

“‘Where have all the goddesses gone,’ writes Mohja Kahf, ‘I tracked down Isis / incognito on Cyprus. /She told me Ishtar / lived under the radar / in southern Iraq. . . .’ In Hagar Poems, Mohja Kahf’s hallmark qualities—irreverence, imagination, wit, poignancy—are all exuberantly in evidence. A wonderful read.”

—Leila Ahmed, author of A Quiet Revolution: The Veil’s Resurgence, from the Middle East to America

“This brilliant collection captures all the ‘patient threading of relationship’ between Hagar and Sarah as between women, and then between women and men, between human and God. . . . At every turn of the page [Kahf] refuses complacency and circumstance but opts instead for exposing the tenuousness of threads that tie and bind and then come loose before our eyes.”

—From the foreword by Amina Wadud

The central matter of this daring new collection is the story of Hagar, Abraham, and Sarah—the ancestral feuding family of Judaism, Christianity, and Islam.

These poems delve into the Hajar story in Islam. They explore other figures from the Near Eastern heritage, such as Mary and Moses, and touch on figures from early Islam, such as Fatima and Aisha. Throughout, there is artful reconfiguring. Readers will find sequels and prequels to the traditional narratives, along with modernized figures claimed for contemporary conflicts.

Hagar Poems is a compelling shakeup of not only Hagar’s story but also of current roles of all kinds of women in all kinds of relationships.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781682260005
Publisher: University of Arkansas Press
Publication date: 07/01/2016
Edition description: 1
Pages: 160
Product dimensions: 5.90(w) x 8.60(h) x 0.40(d)

About the Author

Mohja Kahf was born in Damascus, Syria, in 1967 to parents who immigrated to the United States in 1971. She is the author of a poetry book, E-mails from Scheherazad, and a novel, The Girl in the Tangerine Scarf.

Table of Contents

Foreword vii

Acknowledgments ix


The Water of Hajar 3

The First Thing 4

Hajar, First Woman on the Moon 6

Hajar in America 8

Professor and Mrs. Abraham 9

Hajar Writes a Letter to Sarah as a Cathartic Exercise Suggested by Her Therapist 10

Page Found Crumpled in the Wastebasket by Hajar's Writing Desk 12

Kin 13

From Sarah's Egypt Diary 15

Sarah's Laugh II 16

Hajar's Ram 18

Isaac Wakes Up to Ismaïl and Hagar Terrorizing the House 19

Hagar No Roses 21

Hajar at the AIDS March 23

Hajar's Sandals 24

The Caseworker Visits Abraham and Sarah 25

Hagar Dreamwork: The Therapist's Notes 26

At the Snowcap 27

The Fire of Hajar II 28

Postcards from Hajar, a Correspondence in Four Parts 29

The Threshold 32

All Good 33

Knowing at Arafat 36

The Kaba's Lap 37

Lifting the Hajar Heel 38

Hajar Triumphant 39

Hajar Enters the Garden, Well-Pleased and Well-Pleasing 40

Hagar Begone 43

Hajar Thorn 44


Asiya Is Waiting for a Sign 47

Asiya's Aberrance (Nushuz Asiya) 49

Daughter of the Pharisees 51

The Last Day before Asiya's Nervous Breakdown 52

Asiya Meets Miriam at the Riverbank 54

The Red Fish 56

Arab and Hebrew Flow and Cross Over 58

Among the Midianites on U.S. 31 59

Balqis Makes Solomon Sign a Pre-Nup 61

Zuleikha Ionic 63

Zuleikha Tantra 65

The Ladies of the City 67

The Zuleikha Hotline 68

Mary Phones Her Old High School Teacher from the University Library at 4 a.m. 69

Mary's Glade 71

Not the Same 72

Riverbank 73

The Food of Mary 75

Khadija Gets Her Groove Back 77

Our Lady of the Sorrows 78

Aisha of the Pearls 79

Aisha Fails the Good Housekeeping Seal 80

Aisha: The Islamic Inquirer exclusive 81

Breaking: Aisha Claims to Be Post-Feminism 82

Nusaiba at Uhud 84

Bilal's Mother 85

What Is Recorded of the Response of Ghazali's Wife on Being Informed by Her Husband the Great Theologian That He Was Quitting His Job, Leaving Her and Their Children, and Skipping Town to Find God and the Proper Worship Thereof 86

What al-Ghazali's Mother Commented on the View of Her Son the Eminent Theologian that Women's Natures Tend Not Toward Spiritual Heights but the Baser Elements of Worldly Life Such as Bearing and Nursing Children and the Muck of Cooking, Cleaning, and Sex for Their Husbands and/or Masters 87


The Black Stone of My Heart 91

From a Former Grad Student of Imam Ibn al-Qayyim 92

The Near Eastern Goddess Alumnae Office … 93

The Mihrab of the Mind 95

Most Wanted 96

Tortoise Prayer 97

Little Mosque Poems 98

References 109

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