Al-Mutanabbi Street Starts Here—Now in Tacoma

September 17, 2013

Traveling exhibit, created to defy an Iraqi bomb, Aug. 19–Oct. 31

Beau Beausoleil Gives Talk on Wednesday, Oct. 16

TACOMA, Wash. – On March 5, 2007, in the middle of the Iraq War, a car bomb devastated the literary and intellectual heart of Baghdad, ripping through booksellers, cafes, and tea shops, killing 30 people and wounding more than 100.

San Francisco poet and artist Beau Beausoleil and British scholar Sarah Bodman responded to the devastation by asking artists and poets from around the world to create artists’ books as a show of solidarity with those slain and injured. The response was overwhelming.

The result is a remarkable exhibition of some 200 handmade artists’ books and single-sheet broadsides. The co-curators say the display aims to “pay homage to the truth that can rest between any two covers,” and to reflect “the ultimate futility of those who try to erase thought.”

Collins Memorial Library at University of Puget Sound is proud to be hosting the national traveling exhibit Al-Mutanabbi Street Starts Here this fall. (Al-Mutanabbi, the bombed street, was named after Iraqi poet al-Mutanabbi, the Arab world’s equivalent of Shakespeare.) The show includes more than 50 works from the original collection. It begins Monday, August 19 and runs through Thursday, October 31 in the library.

In conjunction with the exhibit are two related events. In October the exhibit’s co-curator Beau Beausoleil and Seattle artist and poet Carletta Carrington Wilson will give free public talks about the exhibit and their own work. Details are below.

From August 19 Collins Memorial Library also will be highlighting resources and materials received through the Muslim Journeys Bookshelf grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities.

Collins was one of 843 libraries in the United States selected to participate in this initiative. It provides the public with access to books and DVDs representing fresh perspectives on the people, places, histories, beliefs, and practices of Muslims in the United States and around the world.

The two free public lectures are: 

Thursday, October 10, 4–5 p.m.
Carletta Carrington Wilson
on her work books of the bound
Collins Memorial Library, McCormick Room. Free.

Carletta Carrington Wilson is a Seattle artist and poet whose fusion of literary and visual work expresses themes of social justice. Her most recent series of mixed-media collages uses symbols of language, silence, bodies, and bondage to honor the unheard voices of the enslaved.

Wednesday, Oct. 16, 7–8 p.m.
Beau Beausoleil
on his book Al-Mutanabbi Street Starts Here: Poets and Writers Respond to the Bombing of Baghdad’s ‘Street of the Booksellers’
Collins Memorial Library, McCormick Room. Free.

Beau Beausoleil is the founder of the Al-Mutanabbi Street Coalition and co-curator of the Al-Mutanabbi Street Starts Here book exhibit. He recently published the anthology of writings Al-Mutanabbi Street Starts Here: Poets and Writers Respond to the Bombing of Baghdad’s “Street of the Booksellers.” Exploring the question “Where does al-Mutanabbi Street start?” the book looks at both communities and nations, seeking to show the commonality between a small street in Baghdad and major cultural centers. Chapters examine al-Mutanabbi Street as a place that has long offered sanctuary to diverse Iraqi voices, and a place where the roots of democracy took hold hundreds of years ago.

The exhibit and lectures are sponsored by the Catharine Gould Chism Fund for the Humanities and the Arts. Puget Sound Book Artists also assisted with the exhibit and co-sponsored the talk by Beau Beausoleil.

For directions and a map of the
For accessibility information please contact or 253.879.3236

Read a story in The Economist about the traveling exhibit:

Press photos of works from the Al-Mutanabbi Street Starts Here exhibit can be downloaded from:

Photos on page: Top right. "Witness" from the exhibit; Above left: "Street Map"; Above right: al-Mutanabbi Street in 2009, by Salam Pax (creative commons photo).

Tweet this: Bombs cannot destroy ideas. Al-Mutanabbi Street Starts Here shows us why. @univpugetsound  Aug. 19–Oct. 31.

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