Thursday 22 June 2023

Malka Al-Haddad, "The Truth at the End of the Night"


Malka Al-Haddad is an Iraqi human rights defender, living in exile in the UK. Al-Haddad worked as a lecturer at Kufa University, Iraq, and taught literary criticism. Malka’s poetry collection, Birds Without Sky, which was published in the UK was longlisted for the Leicester Book Prize 2018. A pamphlet of consisting of the first section of this collection was long-listed for the Cinnamon Press Poetry Pamphlet Competition, 2017. She has a Master’s degree in Arabic Literature from Kufa University and has recently attained an MA at the University of Leicester, in the Politics of Conflict and Violence. Her poetry captures the history and culture of her homeland and is a memoir of her journey into exile and the welcome she found in Britain. The Truth at the End of the Night, due to be published by Palewell Press in July 2023,  is her second full collection. Malka has read her poetry in various locations across the country, including at the House of Commons to Members of Parliament. She is a poetry editor of the The Other Side of Hope magazine, the UK's first literary magazine of Sanctuary, accredited by City of Sanctuary UK.

About The Truth at the End of the Night

The Truth at the End of the Night is the second full collection of poems by Iraqi refugee poet, Malka Al-Haddad. It chronicles and expresses concern about the way the UK asylum process treats refugees. A series of interior illustrations by George Sfougaras was inspired by his response to Malka’s poems. The author grew up during the Iran-Iraq war and lost several close family members during the first Gulf War and American invasion in 2003. She became a poet and a human rights advocate, which attracted hostility towards her in Iraq. While she was studying English in preparation for her PhD in the UK, death threats against her escalated and she couldn't return back to her beloved home and family. Malka's asylum claim was continually refused by the Home Office and after 11 years, she was eventually granted leave to remain, but without access to public funding. She is now an ambassador for City of Sanctuary in the UK. Malka's pain and anger on behalf of all those caught up in the UK asylum system give her poetry a passionate strength and urgency.

You can read more about The Truth at the End of the Night on the publisher's website here. Below, you can read two sample poems from the collection. 

From The Truth at the End of the Night, by Malka Al-Haddad

Yarl’s Wood

I wrote a poem, two, three, and ten,
I have not forgotten.
I swallowed all the spiders in my room
Lay on a hot oven tray
Drank all the drainage in my shelter
Vomited everything I ate
And I did not forget.

Suicidal, sectioned and 180 doses to wash up my mind
In The Bradgate Mental Health Unit
And I did not forget.

Divided my life into
Pre-Yarl’s Wood and post-Yarl’s Wood

I bought the threads for my wedding dress,
I sewed it, embroidered it, put it on,
Danced with my love,
And I did not forget.
I shook hands with the sun on the shores of Wales
Tide and traction hundreds of times
And I did not forget.
Counted the stars in the sky of Scottish Highlands
The fields turned green and brown ten times.
And I did not forget.

Hung my memories on the washing line
Waited for it to dry everything out,
And went back to say:
Yarl’s Wood
It’s not forgotten
Not forgotten.

This morning I looked in the mirror
at my hair which was full of white
And I realized then that I got older quickly
Faster than I could imagine
And I still haven’t forgotten. 

Note: Yarl's Wood Immigration Removal Centre is a detention centre for foreign nationals before their deportation from the UK. Detention in Yarl's Wood is experienced as a form of "kidnapping" and psychological torture.

The Truth at the End of the Night

I lie about everything; this is what
the representative of the Home Office said to me.
The truth is that I lied to my children when I promised
a roof to protect them from the fragments of war.
I lied to my father when I told him that
I stopped being afraid of invaders and
I lied to my mother that one day
I will free my sisters from the chains of the clan.
I lied to my friends who were killed in the war
that I would meet them and drink together
in front of the Statue of Liberty.
I lied when I reassured my love that we would
master turning the pages of disappointment
and that our freedom aches would not last long.
After ten years of Home Office challenges,
still their hands are spiders mapping
bullets in the walls of my sanctuary.
It seems that I’ve lied more than politicians do
And lie more than Boris Johnson
And lie more than warlords,
And it seems that everything in my life is a lie,
except what I write here.

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