Sitting around an old table/they drew lines across the map/dividing the place/I would call my country. Choman Hardi 'Lausanne, 1923'
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About Choman Hardi
Choman Hardi is the seventh and youngest child of Kurdish poet Ahmed Hardi. After several stages of forced displacement, she was granted refugee status in England in 1993. She studied at Oxford, London, and Kent universities and her post-doctoral research saw her return to Kurdistan to document the plight of women survivors of Anfal.
Hardi began writing poetry when she was 20 and had published poetry in her mother tongue before Life for Us appeared from Bloodaxe in 2004. Her second collection, Considering the Women (Bloodaxe, 2015) received a Recommendation from the Poetry Book Society and was shortlisted for the Forward Prize for Best Collection. Her translation of Sherko Bekas’s Butterfly Valley (ARC, 2018) received a PEN Translates Award.
Hardi has said in interview that her early poems are more “flowery” because she “belonged to the Kurdish tradition and engaged with [her] poems in an intensely emotional way.” Learning to write poems in English, she says, has given her a measure of detachment “which is essential when writing about painful, personal and sensitive subjects.” Only in English was she “able to write about statelessness, genocide, oppression and Kurdishness.” Hardi also sees English as a language of power and feels a deep-rooted sense of responsibility to be a channel for the Kurdish people to the English-speaking world, leading Moniza Alvi to comment: “This is compelling poetry of international significance.”
The effect of Hardi’s English poetic voice is a calmness of tone and plain-spoken language, which act as containers for the kind of civilized sadness felt by one who has seen too much of man’s inhumanity to man. George Szirtes writes of the poems’ gentle music and their personal telling of war and persecution, saying: “[they] are far more than simple summoning of facts. The grace and rhythm of the telling – the singing of it – moves the poems beyond reportage.”
“Grace and rhythm” are also in attendance in Choman Hardi’s reading of her poems in this Archive recording. And there is the same warmth and patience in her speaking voice as in the poetry. Hardi’s introductions inform the listener of the occasions for the poems and demonstrate how large the task has been to create such poised poetry.
This recording was made on Oct 9th 2009 at the Audio Workshop and was produced by Anne Rosenfeld. Photograph taken by Caroline Forbes.