AWP's Board & Staff's Opposition to the Recent Executive Order
February 8, 2017
The AWP Board of Trustees and Staff would like to reiterate our opposition to the executive order of January 27, 2017 banning entry into the United States from Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria, and Yemen. Over the past week and a half we have appreciated hearing from many of our members regarding their disapproval of this unpatriotic and un-American order.
We have worked with several #AWP17 attendees who were uncertain about how the order would affect them, since they were born in one of the affected countries but held passports from other countries. We heard, for instance, from Siavash Saadlou, a translator of the Iranian poet Rasool Yoonan and student at Saint Mary’s College, who was hoping to come to the conference to discuss publishing opportunities for his work with publishers and presses.
Saadlou unfortunately had to cancel his plans because of the order, and, despite the recent judicial order blocking the implementation of the ban, will no longer be able to attend the conference this week in Washington, DC. While we applaud the decision of US District Senior Judge James Robart to provide a nationwide restraining order blocking the ban, we share in the concerns over the ambiguous future of the order, and of the divisive and myopic nature of ban itself.
AWP is an organization strengthened by the many communities of writers, editors, teachers, and students who bring their love of literature to our various programs and projects, including the conference. Such diversity is fundamental to our mission, and we feel privileged to host the most inclusive literary event in the United States. It is the foundation of the conference to welcome participation regardless of race, ethnicity, nationality, sexual orientation, gender expression or identity, socioeconomic status, age disability, or religious or political belief.
In solidarity with Siavash Saadlou, we would like to share some of his translations of Rasool Yoonan published in Asymptote Journal and the Indiana Review, as well as the brief interview we conducted with him:
AWP: What would have been your plans at the #AWP17 Conference & Bookfair if you could have attended?
Saadlou: First of all, I was tremendously looking forward to my first time attending AWP, especially since I didn't manage to make it in 2016. In addition, I love DC a lot and happen to have a great American friend there whom I have known since 2011 when I used to live in London. In terms of plans, I was going to do my best in finding a publisher for my translations of Rasool Yoonan, a contemporary Iranian poet. About thirty or so of my translations have appeared in Washington Square Review, Indiana Review, Blue Lyra Review, Writing Disorder, Visions International, and Asymptote. So, I was hoping to touch-base with publishers who might be interested in Yoonan's work and my translations.
AWP: What do you think is the value of cultural exchanges?
Saadlou: I think it is significantly important that we give one another the opportunity to present ourselves. Why should I be called a Muslim, Christian, or whatever else, while humanity predates all such schools of thought? And furthermore, why should all people from a certain faith be painted with a broad brush? I always quote from one of Rasool Yoonan's poems when it comes to the importance of avoiding jingoism: “My homeland is glued to the feet of wild geese.” Is there a message clearer than that? Let's abandon our preconceived notions of supremacy over one another, so that we can benefit from each other's experience with the world. Difference begets beauty; don't let our differences be the harbinger of enmity. Propinquity speaks louder than consanguinity.
A year and a half ago, the #AWP17 Steering Committee chose our keynote speaker, Azar Nafisi, Iranian-American writer and professor, for her wonderful literary achievements. Throughout our 50 years, AWP has been a proud supporter of such literary advocates of liberty, creativity, and compassion, of what Azar Nafisi calls the Republic of the Imagination. We could have never imagined our keynote choice would become so profoundly important. We look forward to making voices heard at the 2017 Conference & Bookfair. There has never been a more important time for writers to assemble.