I played my game for keeps -- For love, for poetry - Stanley Kunitz
So goes a poem I fell in love with over twenty years ago. Since then I've been playing the game of poetry "for keeps." I have been a writer, critic, scholar, educator, and researcher of contemporary poetry in various forms, consistently, over the past two decades.
My very first teaching position was as a volunteer in a refugee camp in Lebanon. The students called me, jokingly, "Mrs. Watermelon," making a clever pun in Arabic on my surname. I have taken that sense of the knowing wink: an informed humor, and honored it, carrying it with me in my teaching, leadership, and scholarship, to encourage students from the historically underserved in further refugee camps, to the historically well-served, at, for example, Oxford University, in accessibly serious studies of the written word. Throughout my classrooms and many projects, the light and the heavy comingle with a serious joy.
As tenured Associate Professor of Modern and Contemporary Literature at the University of Reading, I currently offer courses in World literature, American literature, eco-criticism women's literature, and contemporary poetry while conducting research on refugee experiences of home-making, alongside my longer-standing workon New York poetry. My scholarship has been awarded international fellowships and grants, including most recently a Leverhulme Research Fellowship, which supports my study of the literature of migration, and specifically, its forms.
Alongside two books currently in progress, I am the author of a further four: Spatial Poetics (OUP, 2018), a monograph on New York School poetry's forms, Joe Brainard's Art (EUP, 2019), an edited collection of essays on the text and image of the avant-garde artist, Migration Culture and Identity: Making Home Away (Palgrave, 2023), a collection of essays on home-making practices of refugees, and Synchronous Fireflies: Conversations with the New York School (forthcoming), an Oral History of the New York School. Other writings include articles and reviews for The Times Literary Supplement, Poetry Magazine, the American Book Review, The Review of English Studies, Jacket, Empty Mirror, and PN Review, among others.
In my spare time, I organise free writing and reading workshops for refugees, in efforts to offer space for the processing of the trauma of displacement.