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Dunya Mikhail: 'The War Works Hard'

War is a recurring theme for poet Dunya Mikhail, an Iraqi exile who fled her country after being placed on Saddam Hussein's enemies list. She wrote her first poems as a teenager in Baghdad, just as the slaughter of the Iran-Iraq War began. Subsequent wars offered more to write about.

One of Mikhail's collections is called The War Works Hard. It's also the name of a poem with an ironic take on the meaning and consequence of war.

Mikhail, who now lives in the United States, wrote that poem in response to the Persian Gulf war of 1991.

"When I think of war, for me, it's by default a ... lose-lose case," the poet tells Renee Montagne. "I believe there's no winner in the war because, you know, the killed one dies physically and the killer dies morally. So they are both dead."

Mikhail wrote the poem "Bag of Bones" about the current Iraq war.

For Mikhail, writing about war is not necessarily a way to heal wounds, she says.

"On the contrary, it keeps [them] open forever," Mikhail adds. "Poems are like X-rays. It makes you see the wound and understand it."

Copyright 2023 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

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