Astute followers of this blog will notice this logo now graces the website. I am so excited to announce that I have received a Recommender Grant for Writers from the Ontario Arts Council! The way the grant works: I sent a writing sample along with an application to recognized publishers in Ontario who then recommended the work be funded through the OAC. This is the first time I have been awarded a grant!

I had the support of many people, including my lovely followers on Twitter (you can follow me there @SoniaSulaiman). My friends and fellow writers Susan Muaddi Darraj, and Natasha Ranken beta read the application with me. I am truly grateful for their help.

The grant was awarded for a project tentatively titled ‘A Personal Paradise.’ It is a work that I have been writing on and off since 2006. It is a collection of free verse poems about cultural and personal reintegration, mapping a personal history of revision and healing. Palestinians are known among Arab communities as “the Poets of the Arabs,” and putting these stories into verse is one way of attempting to reintegrate a shattered family history and its legacy. The collection unfolds through the two main thematic threads of engagement with Palestinian folklore and generational trauma.

Here is the titular poem, the poem that started it all, first published in Whisky Sour City by Black Moss Press:

A Personal Paradise

Pistachios, pumpkin, watermelon seeds salted and fresh,

shelled with your teeth year round. Something to pass the time

when it’s too hot even under Walkerville maples and century elms;

the sun bakes their leaves before they fall.

Earl Grey strong and dark; it could stand up on its own

from its mounds of sugar. Thick, rampant, fresh spearmint

uprooted, plunged top-down and swished.

The wet leaves sticking like spinach as the tea slides down.

‘Too cold without, too hot without’ is a saying from Palestine

where tea is a treat for scorching days. Dad brought the habit

with his sandals, worn year round.

The mint patch outside the kitchen door fought back the chlorine stench

when neighbour kids cry ‘Marco Polo!’ over the fence

and the A.C. fan roars under the grape arbour’s shade.

In the next yard the little Sicilian fig tree turns its greedy leaves

to cup the sun before the autumn arrives. Soon Nicolo will dig its grave,

and bury it alive so it can be brought out again when the winter is past.

Lastly, in other news, today my application for a New/Early Career Artist profile was approved by the Canada Council for the Arts, meaning I can start applying for grants from the CCA as well. Very exciting!

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