Celebrate National Poetry Month and National Arab American Heritage Month by listening to “Seen Jeem.”
T.S. Eliot may have said that April is the cruelest month, but that must have been before it became designated as National Poetry Month and National Arab American Heritage Month.
Celebrate this month by listening to “Seen Jeem” — a podcast that features Arab American writers. There may be only a couple weeks left in April, but that leaves you plenty of time to explore some of the latest episodes on the show, which feature conversations with Arab Americans who write all sorts of things, from poetry to graphic novels.
The name of the show comes from the two Arabic letters of the alphabet it references. They explain that “Seen (س) Jeem (ج ) is the Arabic for Q and A.” The podcast features work from Arab Americans as well as those who are part of the Southwest Asian and North African (SWANA) diaspora.
As stated on their website, “the Seen Jeem Podcast is brought to you by the Center for Arab American Studies and the Arab American National Museum. It is funded by the University of Michigan Arts Initiative and the Ford Community Development Fund.”
The show was created in November 2021. The first episode kicked off with a conversation with Dunya Mikhail. She discussed her poetry collection, “In Her Feminine Sign.” The conversation is illuminating. Mikhail is a talented, thoughtful writer. It was beautiful to hear her describe her work and her writing process. There truly is not a better episode in this podcast to listen to considering it covers both celebrations for this month.
For fans of poetry, episode four also covers a collection by author Hayan Charara. “These Trees, Those Leaves, This Flower, That Fruit” is Charara’s latest collection. They discuss themes like memory and community in the episode.
If poetry isn’t your thing, but Young Adult fiction is, then you’ll want to listen to episode five with Diana Abu-Jaber, author of “Silverworld.” A professor of writing and literature at Portland State University, Abu-Jaber focuses on food and identity as part of her work.
The most recent episode, which is also the last episode in season one, features a conversation with Malaka Gharib to discuss her graphic memoir, “I Was Their American Dream.” Both a journalist and a cartoonist, Gharib discusses her memoir, which explores some of the facets of the immigrant experience, as well as upcoming projects.
In addition to the podcast, the website features extra content in specific sections for each page. These include descriptions of the writer’s work, their bio and videos of them reading their work aloud. This can be especially valuable for those who are aspiring writers.
It is inspiring to hear the words of other writers, especially if you aim to publish something of your own one day. Lovers of the written word are sure to enjoy this podcast, as it covers a variety of genres.
Season one of this podcast has been phenomenal. The seasons to come will no doubt be even better. It is a great way to stay up to date on the incredible work that many Arab American writers are producing right now in the U.S. and abroad.
This podcast is available on all streaming platforms.