In March 2007, a bomb killed 30 and wounded 100 on Baghdad’s Al-Mutanabbi Street. This carnage is dwarfed by the devastation in Iraq, Syria and other countries in the region since the 2003 U.S. invasion. But Mutanabbi was a place of potent cultural symbolism: a street of booksellers, named after a 10th-century Iraqi poet.
The attack on readers and writers recalled such infamies as the Nazi book burnings that preceded World War II and the destruction of Ptolemaic Alexandria’s grand library. And it spurred San Francisco poet and bookseller Beau Beausoleil to call on writers, print makers and art-book makers for an aesthetic response. Their work is showcased in “Al-Mutanabbi Street Starts Here DC 2016,” an area-wide festival that includes exhibitions, readings and more.
The number of books and prints made in response to the bombing is now so large that the array must be spread across multiple venues, including the McLean Project for the Arts (MPA), Brentwood Arts Exchange and the library and galleries at George Mason University. (GMU professor Helen Frederick is the festival’s D.C. coordinator.) In addition, several local galleries have mounted shows of new work inspired by the bombing and classical Arabic poetry.
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