Image by Caroline Forbes
About Choman Hardi
Choman Hardi is the seventh and youngest child of Kurdish poet Ahmed Hardi. She was born in Suleimanya in Iraqi Kurdistan in 1974, but her family fled to Iran a year later after the Algiers Accord. The amnesty of 1979 enabled them to return home, only to be driven away nine years later during Anfal, when Saddam's forces attacked the Kurds with chemical weapons. In 1993, Hardi was granted refugee status in England where she went on to study Psychology and Philosophy and completed doctoral research at the University of Kent in Canterbury, on the mental health of Kurdish women refugees. Her post-doctorial research has seen her return to Kurdistan to document the plight of women survivors of Anfal.
Hardi began writing poetry when she was 20 and had published two collections of poetry in her mother tongue before Life for Us appeared from Bloodaxe in 2004; it was reprinted 18 months later. She has said in interview that her early poems are much 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. Time and displacement can provide the required distance and so does writing in a second language. Only in English was I 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
Genocide: Anfal survivors in Kurdistan-Iraq Ashgate, 2010
(trans)Kurdistan in the Shadow of History. Photographs...
(trans with Mima Khalvati) Kajal Ahmad, Poems Enitharmon...
(ed) The Fleeing Garden Exiled Writers' Ink!, 2006
Light of the shadows Raboon, 1998
Selected Poems Rendge, Kurdistan, 2003
Life for Us Bloodaxe Books, 2004