Between the Lines: The Poetry of Place

Feb 8, 2015

Hedy Habra signing books at Barnes & Noble
Credit Hedy Habra

Hedy Habra’s poetry reflects the war in her family's native Lebanon, the loss of her home in the Middle East, and creating a new home in Michigan, where Habra has lived well over two decades.

Tea in Heliopolis was published by Press 53 in 2013, earning the 2014 USA Best Book Award in the category of poetry. Habra’s story collection, Flying Carpets (Interlink Publishing, 2013), was a finalist in the category of fiction/short story. She has also written a book of literary criticism, Mundos alternos y artísticos en Vargas Llosa.

An instructor of Spanish literature at Western Michigan University, Habra writes in French, English and Spanish. She says writing with different cultural perspectives and in different languages presents challenges but also adds new layers of meaning.

Credit Hedy Habra

Habra says when you not only speak but live in different cultures, “It is impossible to reproduce the original poem when translating. There are different facets of my personality that come out depending on the language in which I am writing. It can be as if different writers are writing … but can also be an advantage as it is also a means of reconciling all those facets of my identity.”

Habra is not just an artist of words, though. She has long been interested in painting, inheriting that passion and gift from her mother. Several poems in Tea in Heliopolis allude to her mother’s paintings, and the book's cover features one of Habra’s own paintings. But in her forthcoming poetry collection Under Brushstrokes she takes the next step. Each poem is created in alignment with a favorite painting.

Under Brushstrokes gives me more freedom,” Habra says. “This collection is not linked to any time, to any place. If a painting is surreal, the poem is surreal. If it is inspired by a Cubist painting, the poem will reflect that movement in painting. It is an emotional response.”

Habra’s creative writing and critical studies have appeared in many literary magazines. Tea in Heliopolis was also a finalist for the 2014 International Book Award in Poetry, and Flying Carpets was a finalist for the 2014 Eric Hoffer Book Award in Short Fiction and won honorable mention in the Arab National Book Award competition. Habra received the Excellence in Teaching Award at Western Michigan University in 2014.