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Elizabeth Winslow is a fiction writer and a graduate of the Iowa Writers’ Workshop. Her translation of Dunya Mikhail’s The War Works Hard won the PEN prize for translation in 2004 and was published by New Directions in 2005.

She has had other translated poems published in Modern Poetry in TranslationPoetry InternationalWords Without BordersCircumference and World Literature Today and short stories or non-fiction published in PhoebeBlue Mesa ReviewLouisville Review and Variety.

The War Works Hard

New Directions Publishing
2006 Shortlist
United States

Judges’ Citation

In Elizabeth Winslow’s perfect translations, poetry takes on its ancient function of restoring meaning to the language. Here is the war in Iraq in English without a single lie.

We know that Dunya Mikhail was raised in Saddam’s Iraq and sent into exile to follow the news of its devastation from afar. So the very first line of The War Works Hard comes as a surprise: ‘What good luck!’ The second line crystallizes both the contemporary reality and Mikhail’s sensibility: ‘She has found his bones.’ In her poems, war is a monstrous fact of ordinary life, and her particular skill is the invention of unadorned images that capture the often unexpected human responses. Brecht wrote, ‘We’d all be human if we could,’ and Mikhail, despite all the contrary evidence, shows that we can, and sometimes are. These are political poems without political rhetoric, Arabic poems without Arabic poetical flourishes, an exile’s letter with neither nostalgia nor self-pity, an excavation of the ruins of her homeland where the Sumerian goddess Inana is followed on the next page by the little American devil Lynndie England. In Elizabeth Winslow’s perfect translations, poetry takes on its ancient function of restoring meaning to the language. Here is the war in Iraq in English without a single lie.