Elaine Kahn’s Favourite Book Imagines a “Free Palestine”

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Elaine Kahn
Elaine Kahn wears her own clothingPhotography by Maripol

In the new issue of AnOther Magazine, experimental poet Elaine Kahn talks about her love of Gaza Writes Back – an “intimate” collection of short stories

This article is taken from the Spring/Summer 2024 issue of AnOther Magazine:

Gaza Writes Back is a collection of short stories comprising the work of young Gazans writing during 2008’s Operation Cast Lead, also known as the Gaza Massacre, a 22-day Israeli military assault on the Gaza Strip. I got a copy after learning about the book’s editor, Refaat Alareer, a poet, professor and activist who was assassinated on 7 December 2023 in a targeted Israeli airstrike. While the stories in the book vary widely in theme and style, there is something disarming, even blunt, about the collection as a whole. I was caught off guard by how intimate it felt to read. That is attributable to the talent of the individual writers and Alareer’s skill as an editor. ‘There’s a Palestine that dwells inside all of us,’ Alareer writes in the foreword, ‘ ... a free Palestine where all people regardless of colour, religion or race coexist.’ This book is a living testament to the force of Alareer’s faith in literature’s capacity to be a powerful liberatory practice, and to his steadfast dedication to cultivating that power in his students.” 

The liberatory potential of language is harnessed to quietly devastating effect in the poetry of Elaine Kahn. Diamond-bright, with matchless titles and indelible imagery, Kahn’s poems reach fearlessly into the tenderest places, whether they’re chronicling the phases of love, like in Romance or the End (2020), or examining what it is to exist in a body, as with 2015’s Women in Public. Her fans include Kim Gordon and fellow poet Eileen Myles, who described Romance or the End as “crazy and wonderful like a basket full of snakes”. With a background in visual art and music, Kahn uses an approach to writing poetry that is experimental and unfailingly generous. Her Poetry Field School, which she runs alongside her writing practice, and which offers collaborative, non-hierarchical poetry workshops, is for her almost a calling – something she describes as a kind of politics.

Production co-ordinator: Lino Meoli. Post-production: Samy’s Camera

This story features in the Spring/Summer 2024 issue of AnOther Magazine, which is on sale now. Order here.