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University of Iowa News Release


Aug. 23, 2007

Falkoff introduces Guantánamo poems for 'Live from Prairie Lights'

Illinois lawyer Marc Falkoff, editor of "Poems from Guantánamo: The Detainees Speak" from the University of Iowa Press, will introduce the book in a free event at 7 p.m. Tuesday, Sept. 4, in the Prairie Lights bookstore at 15 S. Dubuque St. in downtown Iowa City. Listen live on the Internet via the Writing University Web site at

The event will be recorded for broadcast on the "Live from Prairie Lights" series, originating on UI radio station WSUI-AM 910. Hour-long "Live from Prairie Lights" productions, hosted by Julie Englander, air at 8 and 9 p.m. Saturdays, and 7 p.m. Sundays on WSUI-AM 910 in Iowa City, WOI-AM 640 in Ames and KRNI-AM 1010 in Cedar Falls. A program is also broadcast at 5 p.m. Sundays on KSUI-FM 91.7 in Iowa City.

"Poems from Guantánamo" anthologizes poetry written by "enemy combatants" imprisoned at the U.S. Naval Base in Cuba, some of whom scratched verse on paper cups before they were allowed to possess writing instruments. The release of the book has provoked international interest, including wire service news, feature stories and opinions in print and on the Web.

Since 2002 at least 775 men have been held in the U.S. detention center at Guantánamo Bay. According to Department of Defense data, fewer than half of them are accused of committing any hostile act against the United States or its allies. In hundreds of cases, even the circumstances of their initial detainment are in question.

This collection gives voice to some of the men held at Guantánamo. Available only because of the efforts of pro bono attorneys who submitted each line to Pentagon scrutiny, "Poems from Guantánamo " brings together 22 poems by 17 detainees, most still in legal limbo at Guantánamo. The Defense Department prohibited the publication of many other poems that were submitted.

Falkoff is an assistant professor at the Northern Illinois University College of Law and attorney for 17 Guantánamo prisoners. Flagg Miller, a linguistic and cultural anthropologist at the University of Wisconsin, Madison, wrote the book's preface, and an afterword was contributed by Ariel Dorfman, a Chilean-American poet, novelist, playwright and human rights activist who holds the Walter Hines Page Chair of Literature and Latin American Studies at Duke University.

"Three decades ago, when I was living in exile and my country, Chile, was being devastated by a dictatorship, I met a woman who had been arrested by Pinochet's secret police and tortured in a cellar in Santiago," Dorfman wrote. "It was poetry, she told me, which allowed her to survive.

"It is shameful and yet also wondrous that I immediately evoked the woman as soon as I read the poems from the prisoners at Guantánamo. Shameful because it is the United States, supposedly a democracy, that is treating its detainees in the same brutal manner that dictatorial Chile and countless other desolate governments across the planet have treated their own captives.

"Shameful because it is the United States, supposedly a beacon of freedom, that has tortured these 'enemy combatants' and denied them basic human rights. Shameful because it is the United States, supposedly a model of justice, that has locked up these men indefinitely, refused to charge them or put them on trial, and abused their religion and convictions to pressure them into 'confessing their terrorist links.'

"And wondrous, yes. The fact that men held in the most appalling, desperate conditions, recur like that woman from Chile did, to poetry as a response to the violence they are subjected to. Can anything give us more hope for our species?"

The Writing University Web site provides a handy portal to the UI writing programs, including the Iowa Writers' Workshop, the International Writing Program, the Nonfiction Writing Program, the Iowa Playwrights Workshop, the Translation Workshop, the UI Press and the Iowa Summer Writing Festival. The site also centralizes writing news, lists upcoming events and provides access to a wealth of writing materials: texts, journals, lists of Iowa-connected writers and publications, historic videos and archived audio. Visitors to the site have the option of subscribing to an RSS feed.

For UI arts information and calendar updates, visit To receive UI arts news by e-mail, go to, click the link "Join or leave the list (or change settings)" and follow the instructions.

STORY SOURCE: University of Iowa Arts Center Relations, 300 Plaza Centre One, Suite 351, Iowa City, IA 52242-2500

MEDIA CONTACT: Winston Barclay, Arts Center Relations, 319-384-0073, cell: 310-430-1013,