Set to Music a Wildfire

Winner of the 2016 Michael Waters Poetry Prize; forthcoming from Southern Indiana Review Press on October 17, 2017. Cover art by Daniel Obzejta

Praise for Set to Music a Wildfire

"In her lovely debut, Set to Music a Wildfire, Ruth Awad rebuilds the image of a broken country and sutures the memory of a shattered family with words that can’t stop singing. A powerful homage to her father, who survived the Lebanese Civil War and emigrated to the United States and married her mother, these poems tell the story of the exile and all he left behind. 'I carry these suitcases full of rain,' she writes, in her father’s voice, 'because I can’t take my country.' These poems are alive as the keen-song of the griever and the clear-eyed and patient gaze of the children of the children of war. She writes: 'When someone dies in Tripoli, we write their name on paper / next to their pictures and post them where others can see. / Walk the street where the names wave from the walls, / flutter from windows, buildings gilled with sheets. / breathing paper, beating paper, the streets are paper.' In Awad’s paper streets, we can see the names and breathe." —Philip Metres

"The story Ruth Awad tells in this gorgeous debut collection is one of history and memory, displacement and estrangement, and perhaps above all, imagination and empathy. It’s the story not only of the Lebanese Civil War—the sky 'unzipping,' the 'whistling bombs you couldn’t see coming…the beehive rounds, whirring metal wings,' the 'woman with half-singed hair…her breath like a sizzled wick'—but also of a family in America and the struggles that continued here. Awad approaches the story—of a country, a man, a family—as if excavating priceless artifacts and holding them up to the light. You will want to lean in close to see them, in all their rich, chilling, and tender detail."  —Maggie Smith

"Ruth Awad writes in a hard, classical style. Whether she is writing about her father's violent childhood in Lebanon or his American wife and their thee daughters, she is naturally dark. I admire her honesty and emotionalism as she transforms, with language, chaos into art."
—Henri Cole

"These poems and the people who inhabit them, 'born from the mouth of a bullet hole,' carry a darkness impossible to outrun, the darkness of war, specifically the Lebanese Civil War of the 70s and 80s. For Ruth Awad, the inheritance of such grief remains immeasurable as it fuels 'our bodies, // their infinite capacity for ruin.' Both immigration narrative and meditative lyric on identity politics—'When will you learn my name?'—Set to Music a Wildfire is disturbingly memorable in its intimate and articulate confrontations."
—Michael Waters


The Adroit Journal: “Gulls” and “Legend of Mount Sannine

ANTI-: “Love like Sampson’s Lion While My Mother Shaves My Father’s Head”

Atticus Review: “My Father Dreams of a New Country,” “Driftwood,” “Elevator,” “Lebanese Famine in America,” and “The Only Car on the Highway Back to Tripoli

BOAAT Journal (forthcoming): “Bassam”

CALYX Journal: “A Name for the Year’s Longest Night: My Father’s Grade-School Crush among the Maronite Militia

Connotation Press: An Online Artifact: “I'd Always Told You Your Father Was the Most Beautiful Man in the World,” “Flotsam,” “Inventory of Things Left Behind,” “On the Night You Ask for a Divorce,” “Phillumeny after the Separation,” and “The Hypothetical Return

Copper Nickel: “Kata Doksa,” winner of the 2011 Copper Nickel Poetry Contest judged by Kevin Prufer and nominated for the 2012 Pushcart Prize

Crab Orchard Review: “Homegrown”

Day One: “Interview with My Father: Maps”

Diode Poetry Journal: “A Mother's Love Has Windows” and “Shame, Abridged

Drunken Boat: “My Father in Virginia, Surrounded by Water

Epiphany: “Interview with My Father: Names

Hermeneutic Chaos Literary Journal: “Chimera

Juxtaprose: “The Mounts” and “Taillights

KYSO Flash: “Ablution” and “Tracers,” which was nominated for a 2015 Pushcart Prize

The Missouri Review Poem of the Week: “Surat al-Qiyamah: My Father Talks to God When Syria Occupies Tripoli, 1976

Nashville Review: “The Lights Shut Off in the City of Ghosts

New Republic: “Karantina Massacre

Nightjar Review: “My Father Keeps the Pack Together

One: “Nocturne with Teeth

Ovenbird Poetry: “Battle of the Hotels” and “The Cedars: Beatitudes

Pittsburgh Poetry Review: “After” and “On the Unexploded Cluster Bombs in Southern Lebanon,” which was nominated for a 2016 Pushcart Prize

Rattle: “Inheritance

RHINO Poetry: “Winter Prayer”

Sidereal Magazine: “Hunt,” “Sabra and Shatila Massacre,” “Town Gossip,” and “The Keeper of Allah's Hidden Names

Sixth Finch: “My Father Is the Sea, the Field, the Stone

Southern Indiana Review: “August” and “The Dead Walk Over Your Land

THEthe Poetry Blog: “Lessons in Grief

Vinyl Poetry: “Bride of the South” and “The Green Line



The Hundred Years' War: Modern War Poems (Bloodaxe Books, 2014): “Interviews with My Father: Those Times”

New Poetry from the Midwest 2014 (New American Press, 2015): “Love Like Samson's Lion While My Mother Shaves My Father's Head,” winner of the Heartland Poetry Prize judged by Lee Ann Roripaugh

Poets on Growth (Math Paper Press, 2015): “Love Like Samson's Lion While My Mother Shaves My Father's Head,” “Sabra and Shatila Massacre,” “A Mother’s Love Has Windows,” “Surat al-Qiyamah: My Father Talks to God When Syria Occupies Tripoli, 1976,” and “My Father In Virginia, Surrounded By Water”

Bettering American Poetry 2016 (forthcoming): “My Father Is the Sea, the Field, the Stone”



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