Gallatin Global Writers, a new Writing Program series that highlights contemporary international authors, invited the British-Jordanian poet Amjad Nasser, one of the leading poets writing in Arabic, to give the series’s inaugural address at Gallatin on September 30, 2014.
Nasser, a British citizen, was carrying his books and an official letter of invitation from NYU when he was stopped at London’s Heathrow airport by US Homeland Security, interrogated, and denied entry to the US—without explanation. Nasser wrote his account of the experience in Arabic, which was translated by poet and Gallatin Professor Sinan Antoon.
Born in Jordan in 1955, Nasser worked as a journalist in Beirut and Cyprus before moving in 1987 to London, where he is managing editor and cultural editor of the daily newspaper, Al-Quds Al-Arabi. Nasser is the author of nine volumes of poetry, four travel memoirs, and the novel Land of No Rain, whose English translation was released in June 2014.
In protest of Nasser’s treatment and the denial of his entry to the US, the reading took place as scheduled, with the poet joining London via Skype to reading his work in Arabic. Professor Antoon read the English translations to a full audience in The Jerry H. Labowitz Theatre for the Performing Arts. The PEN American Center in New York and the Washington-based group Split This Rock in have jointly issued a public letter to Secretary of Homeland Security Jeh Johnson asking for a review of the case, an explanation of the reasons for which Nasser was denied entry, and admission to the United States. On October 10, The Washington Post picked up the item with the post “Keeping America safe from foreign poets.”
Read a selection of Nasser's poems here, with translations from the Arabic by Professor Antoon and the translator and poet Fady Joudah.