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Poetry is one of the backbones of oral tradition, conveying people's innermost thoughts and feelings and reflecting the values of cultures all over the world.

To celebrate this form of linguistic and cultural expression and in honor of (Inter)national Poetry Month, the International & Area Studies (IAS) Department invites you to explore the works of poets from around the world, such as: Naja Marie Aidt (Denmark), Elicura Chihuailaf (Chile), B. Kojo Laing (Ghana), Shamsur Rahman (Bangladesh), and Hone Tuwhare (New Zealand). The IAS librarians chose a few well-regarded modern (post-1960s) poets in their respective areas. May their words remind you of our common humanity, and may this list inspire you to seek out other global poets.

African Studies

Rosabelle Boswell

Rosabelle Boswell was born in Mauritius, grew up in Malawi, and lives in South Africa. She is an anthropologist and Professor of Ocean Cultures and Heritage at Nelson Mandela University, South Africa. She has written several articles on cultural identity and has completed ethnographic fieldwork in South Africa, Mauritius, Zanzibar and Madagascar. She has authored two books of poetry: Things Left Unsaid and Pandemix.

The UCLA Library owns one of her poetry books:

[Image: Rosabelle Boswell. Source: author]

Christopher Okigbo

Born in Ojoto, Nigeria, Christopher Okigbo (1932-1967) was a modernist, postcolonial poet, who drew from diverse influences, including modernist English poetry, the classics, myths, and his African heritage. In 1966, he was awarded the Langston Hughes Award for African Poetry at the Festival of Black African Arts in Dakar; however, he refused the award, arguing that poetry should not be judged by race.

UCLA Library holds several of Okigbo's works, including :

[Image: Excerpt from “The Passage.”]

B. Kojo Laing

Born in Kumasi, Ghana, B. Kojo Laing (1946-2017) was a novelist and poet, who was well known for mixing Ghanaian Pidgin and standard British English in his works. His poetry draws from surrealism and addresses themes of alienation and identity, while his novels combine the real and supernatural, often in foreign settings. Laing received national and international acclaim for Search Sweet Country, his 1986 novel which includes a glossary featuring the author's neologisms as well as Ghanaian words. He received the National Poetry Prize Valco Award in 1976 and the National Novel Prize from the Ghana Association of Writers in 1985.

The UCLA Library holds one of his poetry books:

[Image: B. Kojo Laing. Used with permission from The Wylie Agency]

Lebogang Mashile

Lebogang Mashile is an award-winning poet, author, presenter, actress, and producer born to exiled South African parents. In her teens, the family returned to South Africa after the end of apartheid. While studying law and international studies, her interest in the arts grew and she co-founded the poetry group Feela Sistah. She has acted in films and theatrical productions and hosted a popular documentary program and South African game show. In 2005, Mashile published her first poetry collection, In a Ribbon of Rhythm, for which she received the Noma Award.

The UCLA Library holds one of her works:

[Image: Lebogang Mashile. Photo source]

Eastern European Studies

Wisława Szymborska

The 20th century was not an easy time to be a writer in Central and Eastern Europe, and Wisława Szymborska (1923-2012) struggled along with many of her Polish compatriots. But she survived to a ripe old age, saw her country emerge from the dark days of communism to become modern-day Poland, and became a famous poet, prose writer, and translator. Dubbed the “Mozart of Poetry,” Szymborska received the 1996 Nobel Prize for Literature. In awarding the prize, the Academy praised her “poetry that with ironic precision allows the historical and biological context to come to light in fragments of human reality.”

The UCLA Library owns several of her works, both in Polish and in English translation, including:

[Image: Wisława Szymborska. Photo source]

Jaroslav Seifert

Born in Prague to a working-class family, Jaroslav Seifert (1901-1986) is the only writer and poet from former Czechoslovakia to have ever received the Nobel Prize in Literature. He published his first collection of poems in 1921 and was recognized early on as a representative of the artistic avant-garde. Seifert was an active member of the Communist Party of Czechoslovakia until 1929, when he was expelled for his criticism of the party’s Bolshevik tendencies, and he started working as a journalist in the social-democratic and trade union circles until the late 1940s. Although his poems were regularly blacklisted and he was one of the signatories of the Charter 77, he never truly became an active member of the Prague and Czechoslovak dissident scene.

The UCLA Library holds many of his works, including:

[Image: Jaroslav Seifert. Photo source]

Jewish Studies

Dahlia Ravikovitch

Born in the Israeli city of Ramat Gan, Dahlia Ravikovitch (1936-2005) published her first volume of poetry, The Love of an Orange, in 1959. She published a total 10 volumes in her native Hebrew over her lifetime, for which she received several prestigious awards, including the Israel Prize in 1998. Her work has been translated into 23 languages and taught in schools around the world.

Books translated into English held by the UCLA Library:

[Image: Dahlia Ravikovitch. Photo source]

Nurit Zarchi

Born in Jerusalem, Nurit Zarchi is an author and poet for children and adults, as well as a journalist. In 1999, she was the co-recipient of the Bialik Prize for literature. She has been awarded many other prestigious prizes for her literary work, including the Prime Minister’s Prize.

One of her works is translated into English in:

[Image: Nurit Zarchi. Photo source]

Zelda

Zelda Schneurson Mishkovsky (1914-1984), widely known as Zelda, was born in Chernihiv, Russia and settled in Jerusalem with her family in 1926. Descended from an illustrious rabbinic family, her first cousin was the seventh Chabad Rebbe, Rabbi Menachem Mendel Schneerson. Her work draws from the world of Jewish mysticism, Chasidism, and Russian fairy tales.

Some of her poems appear with English translations in:

[Image: Excerpt from "The Silver Candlesticks," a translation of one of Zelda's poems.]

Latin American Studies

Juan Gelman

Argentine poet Juan Gelman (1930-2014) was a powerful voice against oppression, writing poetry and reporting on the injustices and inhumanity of Argentina’s right-wing military junta. Due to his outspokenness, his daughter, son, and daughter-in-law were kidnapped, and the latter became two of the over 30,000 desaperacidos of the dictatorship, while his granddaughter was given to a Uruguayan family and not found until adulthood. In spite of these tragedies and his exile, his love of language and passion for justice has made him one of the most celebrated poets of the 20th century, ultimately winning him the Cervantes Prize, the most prestigious literary prize in the Spanish-speaking world, in 2007.

The UCLA Library holds many of his books, including:

[Image: Juan Gelman. Photo source]

Elicura Chihuailaf

Elicura Chihuailaf is a Chilean Mapuche poet and author who writes in both Spanish and Mapudungun, the language of the Mapcuhe people. He writes in defense of nature and the way of life of the Mapuche and, in addition to written poetry, is an Oralitor (carrier) of the Mapuche oral tradition. He is the only Mapuche winner of Chile’s National Prize for Literature.

You can find the following works at the UCLA Library:

For a sample of his poetry (with English translation), you can visit this website.

[Image: Elicura Chihuailaf. Photo source]

Raquel Salas Rivera

Puerto Rican poet Raquel Salas Rivera writes about the experience of being an immigrant in the United States, Puerto Ricos’s colonial status, and his queer, non-binary identity. He has won a host of poetry awards and was Philadelphia’s Poet Laureate in 2018. He now lives and works in Puerto Rico.

You can find the following titles at the UCLA Library:

You can find samples of his poetry here.

[Image: Raquel Salas Rivera. Photo source]

Natalia Toledo

Mexican poet Natalia Toledo is one of the leading voices in contemporary Zapotec literature, writing about women and their relationship to the environment in the language spoken by nearly half a million indigenous Mexicans, mostly in the state of Oaxaca. In addition to writing poetry, she has also translated several children’s stories, with illustrations by her father, painter Francisco Toledo.

You can find some of her works at the UCLA Library:

Here is a video of Toledo reading one of her poems in both Spanish and Zapotec:

[Image: Natalia Toledo. Photo source]

Middle Eastern Studies

Simin Behbahani

Simin Behbahani (1927-2014), often called “the lioness of Iran,” was born in Tehran. She published her first poem at the age of fourteen and became known for her lyricism, eloquence, and political activism. She established herself as a master of the ghazal, an ancient poetic form through which she innovatively explored contemporary issues and the female perspective in a genre typically presented from the male point of view. She was nominated twice for the Nobel Prize in Literature.

The UCLA Library owns several of her works, including:

[Image: Simin Behbahani. Photo source]

Adonis

Ali Ahmad Said Esber, who goes by the pen name of Adonis or Adunis, is a poet, translator, and theorist. He was born in 1930 in a village in western Syria. Known for breaking with tradition and ushering in a modernist style in Arabic-language literature, Adonis has been a regular contender for the Nobel Prize in Literature and the recipient of countless accolades for his works.

The UCLA Library owns many of his works, including:

Listen to Adonis reading his poem, "War":

[Image: Adonis. Photo source]

Saadi Youssef

Born in Iraq in 1934, Saadi Youssef is a preeminent poet, journalist, and political activist. He has published more than thirty volumes of poetry, two novels, and a collection of short stories. He is also considered a leading translator of English literature into Arabic. Youssef was awarded the Al Owais Prize in 2004 and was nominated for the prestigious Neustadt International Prize for Literature in 2008.

The UCLA Library owns several of Youssef's works, including:

You can listen to him read a selection of his poems in English and Arabic here.

[Image: Saadi Youssef. Photo source]

Pacific Islands Studies

Craig Santos Perez

Craig Santos Perez is an indigenous Chamoru (Chamorro) poet, essayist, scholar, and activist from Guåhan (Guam) and co-founder of Ala Press, an independent publisher of indigenous Pacific literature. His poetry, which includes two spoken word albums and five books, focuses on such themes as Pacific life, colonialism, immigration and diaspora, and environmentalism and has garnered him several accolades, including the Pen Center USA/Poetry Society of America Literary Prize (2011), the American Book Award (2015), and the Hawai’i Literary Arts Council Elliot Cades Literary Award (2017).

The UCLA Library owns print copies of all four of Santos Perez’ ongoing series about his homeland:

You can watch a film of Santos Perez' eco poem, "Praise Song for Oceania," created by Hawaiian filmmaker Justyn Ah Chong. It won the Silver Lei Award (short film) at the 2018 Honolulu Film Festival.

To learn more about Santos Perez, visit his website.

[Image: Craig Santos Perez. Source, used with permission from the author.]

Terisa Siagatonu

Terisa Siagatonu is a queer Samoan slam poet and coach, mental health educator, and community organizer from the Bay Area. She has won awards for slam poetry and was recognized as a Champion of Change by President Obama in 2012, when she was the Project Director of UCLA’s Pacific Islander Education and Retention (PIER) project, for her work as a spoken word poet and activist in the Pacific Islander community.

While Siagatonu’s poetry have appeared in journals, some of which the UCLA Library owns, the best way to know her poetry, as with any oral literature, is to hear her perform it. Here are a couple of examples:

"Raise Up" - The Kennedy Center

"Meauli" - National Poetry Slam 2015

You can learn more about Siagatonu and find links to more videos on her website.

[Image: Terisa Siagatonu. Photo source]

Hone Tuwhare

Hone Tuwhare (1922-2008), of the Ngāpuhi tribe, was a preeminent Maōri poet in New Zealand. A boilermaker by trade, he: published his first collection, No Ordinary Sun, in 1964; won the New Zealand Book Award for poetry twice – for Shape-Shifter (1997) and Piggy-Back Moon (2001); was designated New Zealand’s second Poet Laureate (1999-2001); and received the inaugural Prime Minister’s Award for Literary Achievement in the poetry category in 2003. Tuwhare’s poetry reflects his Maōri perspective, his flair for drama, humor, and conversation, and themes such as landscape, life, loss, and protest.

Among Tuwhare’s works that are owned by the UCLA Library are:

To learn more about Tuwhare and/or his poetry, you can watch this short film (2005) or this full-length documentary (1996).

[Image; Excerpt from "No Ordinary Sun," one of Tuwhare's most well-known poems. You can read an analysis of the poem by Professor Elizabeth DeLoughrey of the UCLA Department of English.]

South Asian Studies

Kishwar Naheed

Born in India in 1940 before migrating with her family to Pakistan in 1949 after the Partition, Kishwar Naheed (Urdu:کشور ناھید) is a celebrated feminist Urdu poet, who has employed both traditional and modernist styles to express a progressive and defiant political agenda, including such themes as women’s empowerment, human rights, equality, and freedom. Her first poetry book, Lab-e-Goya [Lips That Speak] received the Adamjee Literary Award (1968), and she has since received the Sitara-e-Imtiaz [Star of Excellence] Award (2000) from the President of Pakistan and the Kamal-e-Fun [Lifetime Achievement] Award in Literature (2015) from the Pakistan Academy of Letters for her contributions to literature

The UCLA Library has several of Naheed’s works, including:

To learn more about Naheed and her poetry, you can watch this interview (in English):

[Image: Excerpt from "First Class Needs of Third Class Citizens," a translation of one of Naheed's poems.]

Shamsur Rahman

Shamsur Rahman (Bengali: শামসুর রাহমান' 1929-2006)) was a Bangladeshi poet, journalist, and human rights advocate. He was a prodigious author, producing more than sixty poetry collections, and was often dubbed as the unofficial poet laureate of Bangladesh. He was an important figure during the independence movement (from Pakistan) in the 1970s, with his poems providing inspiration to freedom fighters; many feel that his work reflects the nation’s history, with themes such as: politics, war, religion, self, relationships, and urban life. He received several awards, including: Adamjee Award (1962), Bangla Academy Literary Award (1969), Ekushey Padak (1977), Swadhinata Dibosh Award (1991), and Ananda Puraskar (1994).

Though Rahman primarily wrote in Bengali, the books that the library own are English translations of his works. including:

If you are interested in reading Rahman’s poems in the original Bengali, you can borrow his books via interlibrary loan. Search Samasura Rahamana to get additional results.

Here is Rahman reading one of his poems:

[Image: Excerpt from "Rise Beautifully in a Moment," a translation of one of Rahman's poems.]

Vikram Seth

Vikram Seth is an Indian poet and novelist, who divides his time between India and the UK. Seth has written eight poetry books, including The Humble Administrator’s Garden, which won the Commonwealth Poetry Prize (Asia) in 1985, though he might be best known for his novel in verse Golden Gate (1986), which won the Sahitya Akademi Award for English, and the lengthy (1300+ pages) Suitable Boy, which won the Commonwealth Writers Prize (Best Book) in 1994 and was adapted into a BBC miniseries in 2020.

The UCLA Library owns many of Seth’s works, including:

Watch Seth reading his poem, “Can’t”:

[Image: Vikram Seth. Photo source]

Southeast Asian Studies

Merlie M. Alunan

Merlie M. Alunan is a Filipina poet, anthologist, translator, and professor, who has received several awards for her work, including multiple Palanca Awards and National Book Awards. She writes in English and Cebuano and has translated works in Cebuano, Waray, and other Visayan languages into English. Through her creative writing workshops and her founding of the University of the Philippines Visayas Creative Writing Program, she has been instrumental in the growth, revival, and teaching of literature in vernacular languages in the Visayas and Mindanao.

In addition to other titles, the UCLA Library owns the following poetry books by Alunan:

To learn more about Alunan and her poetry, watch this interview (in English):

[Image: Merlie M. Alunan. Photo source]

Angkarn Kalayanapong

Angkarn Kalayanapong (Thai: อังคาร กัลยาณพงศ์; 1926-2012) was a renowned Thai poet and artist, who won the S.E.A. Write Award in 1986 for his poem, “Panithan Kawee” (“The Poet’s Pledge”), and named a National Artist of Thailand in 1989. Initially criticized for his departure from conventional poetic patterns, his works are now considered fine examples of modern Thai poetry.

Among Kalayanapong’s works owned by the library are these poetry collections (two in Thai, one in English translation):

To find more of his works, search under Angkhan Kanlayanaphon in the catalog.

[Image: Angkarn Kalayanapong. Photo source]

Oka Rusmini

Oka Rusmini is an Indonesian poet, novelist, and journalist, who has won awards for her poetry (2014), short stories (2012), and overall literary accomplishments (2017, 2019). Of Balinese background and belonging to the Brahmana/Brahmin caste, her family disowned her for marrying beneath her caste, leading her to write mostly about the unjust treatment of women in the patriarchal caste system

The UCLA Library has a few of Rusmini’s works, including these poetry collections, both of which are in Bahasa Indonesia:

[Image: The first stanza from "Patiwangi," one of Rusmini's poems, followed by an English translation. (Patiwangi is a Balinese ritual to remove a woman’s high-caste status when she marries a man of lower caste.) Find the complete poem and translation here.]

Phan Nhiên Hạo

Phan Nhiên Hạo is a Vietnamese American poet and translator, who was the former Southeast Asian Studies Bibliographer at UCLA. Primarily writing in Vietnamese (though many of his works have been translated), much of his poetry is about the immigrant experience and the liminal spaces that he occupies.

The UCLA Library owns these works by Phan:

{Image: Phan Nhiên Hạo. Photo source]

Western European Studies

Naja Marie Aidt

Naja Marie Aidt was born in Greenland in 1963 and relocated to Copenhagen, Denmark with her family at the age of seven. She has received critical acclaim for her poetry, as well as for her fiction and nonfiction. Most notably, she won the Nordic Council Literature Prize, the highest literary award in Scandinavia, in 2008. Her most recent work, When Death Takes Something From You—a memoir about the tragic death of her son—was longlisted for the National Book Award for Translated Literature and shortlisted for the Kirkus Review Awards.

The UCLA Library owns many of Aidt's works, including:

You can listen to Aidt reading her poem, "Everything Shimmers," here.

[Image: Naja Marie Aidt. Photo source]

Lieke Marsman

Lieke Marsman is the current Poet Laureate of the Netherlands. Born in 1990 in 's-Hertogenbosch, Netherlands, she published her first book of poetry when she was only twenty years old. Titled Wat ik mijzelf graag voorhoud (Things That I Tell Myself), the collection promptly won three literary awards and gained her major recognition. Her most recent work, De volgende scan duurt vijf minuten [The following scan will last five minutes] is based on her experience of being treated for bone cancer.

The UCLA Library owns some of Marsman's works, including:

You can listen to Marsman read "The Following Scan Will Last Five Minutes" in the original Danish:

[Image: Excerpt from "The Following Scan Will Last Less Than a Minute," a translation of one of Marman's poems.]

Kiki Dimoula

Beloved Greek poet Kiki Dimoula was born in Athens in 1931 and passed away in 2020. She won numerous prestigious awards throughout her career, including the European Prize for Literature and the Greek State Prize (twice). In 2002, she was also inducted as a member of the Academy of Athens. The first English translation of her collected works—The Brazen Plagiarist, translated by Cecile Inglessis Margellos and Rika Lesser—won the 2013 Greek National Translation Prize.

The UCLA Library owns the following:

[Image: Excerpt from “The Brazen Plagiarist.”]

About the International & Area Studies Department

The UCLA Library’s International & Area Studies (IAS) Department supports the UCLA community by cultivating research-level collections in a variety of subjects, formats, and languages and providing specialized research services. IAS librarians/curators, with their corresponding areas, are:

  • Alena Aissing (Slavic, Eastern European, and Eurasian Studies)
  • Jade Alburo (Southeast Asian Studies; Pacific Islands Studies)
  • Ruby Bell-Gam (African Studies; International Development Studies)
  • Diane Mizrachi (Jewish and Israel Studies)
  • Jennifer Osorio (Latin American Studies, including Caribbean Studies; Iberian Studies; Ethnic Studies)
  • Shannon Tanhayi Ahari (Western European Studies; Classics)

About the IAS Reading Lists

Beginning in 2021, IAS will be releasing reading lists on a quarterly basis. The IAS Outreach Team (Jade Alburo, Gissel Rios, Tula Orum, Shannon Tanhayi Ahari) usually selects the themes and specifies the criteria, and IAS librarians and staff provide the selections and descriptions. These lists are intended to showcase the global works collected by IAS librarians and are meant to be shared. If you have suggestions for themes or have questions or remarks, please contact any of the Outreach Team members.

Credits: Post created and formatted by: Gissel Rios | Introduction by: Tula Orum | Reading list selections and descriptions by: IAS librarians and staff | Edited by: Jade Alburo