Times Union on Zaqtan

The Albany Times Union newspaper picks up the Ghassan Zaqtan visa story:

Palestinian poet’s U.S. visit delayed over visa issues

The Palestinian poet Ghassan Zaqtan is known for descriptive language and delicate narratives, dealing with history, exile and return.

Zaqtan, who is also a novelist, playwright and newspaper editor, is slated to discuss “Like a Straw Bird It Follows Me,” his first collection of poetry published in English. Zaqtan, however, hadn’t yet arrived in the U.S. by Thursday afternoon. The local appearance is part of a two-week tour, originally scheduled to begin Tuesday in California, that is co-sponsored by groups hosting his readings and underwritten by the Poetry Foundation.

The New York State Writers Institute announced on itsFacebook page that the PEN American Center and the ACLU are pressing the State Department to grant the poet a visa. The organizations have suggested that the visa is being held up for political reasons.

Don Faulkner, director of the Writers Institute, says Zaqtan’s work has a political component, but he is generally considered uncontroversial and has been involved with numerous … conferences and seminars.

“What we’ve gleaned is by all estimations he’s very much seen as a a bridge-builder,” says Faulkner. “He’s regarded, at least in intellectual community in Israel, as a very positive force.” The Writers Institute has received no complaints about booking Zaqtan, Faulkner says.

If all goes as planned, Palestinian-American poet Fady Joudah, who translated “Straw Bird,” will appear with Zaqtan.

If Zaqtan can’t make it, Joudah, who recently won the Yale Younger Poets Prize for his own work, will still appear 4:15 p.m. seminar, 8 p.m. reading; Tuesday. Free. Standish Room, Science Library, UAlbany, 1400 Washington Ave., Albany. 442-5620;


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