Invasive species Launch Party
Marwa Helal, Sahar Romani, and Belal Mobarak
Invasive species Launch Party

Is immigration your second language? Join us for a celebration of poet Marwa Helal’s debut collection Invasive species, a bold collection that pokes holes in the English of immigration officials, lols at the false expertise of Western commentators on the Middle East — and asks for nothing less than a re-examination of how we read. We’ll hear from Marwa as well as poets Sahar Romani and Belal Mobarak. Come to hear three brilliant poets.


How do imposed frameworks of belonging echo through our narratives? How do we move beyond the limited possibilities presented to us when institutionally conventional language usage restricts and erases the myriad of our vernaculars? Marwa Helal’s Invasive species (Nightboat Books, 2019) breaks open revelations that exist beyond rubrics, honoring histories fallen wayside in the face of violence and colonialism. Helal’s collection begins with “poem to be read from right to left,” a piece whose title specifies exact instructions for how to receive it. Safia Elhillo writes that the poem “takes a form created by the poet call the Arabic, which recreates for the non-Arabophone reader the experience of having to reroute the eye; the lovely, crooked syntax that comes from misreading; and the possibilities that precede fluency. For the Arabophone reader the experiences thrilling, familiar in both the old way— the first language— and the in the new way created by our intersections.” With tenderness and steady burning determination, Helal calls us to join her in the future: “im lightyears away looking back at all of us, all of the things we wanted by couldnt have. youre stars now. im a planet. they call me mars. and there is life here.” Helal is the author of the chapbook I Am Made To Leave I Am Made To Return (No Dear/Small Anchor) & winner of BOMB Magazine’s Biennial Contest. Born in Al Mansurah, Egypt, Helal currently lives in Brooklyn, New York. Watch her read “An Ode to DJ Khaled” from one of her first readings at the workshop on AAWW TV.

Belal Mobarak was born in Alexandria, Egypt. Raised in Queens. He is a poet, artist, and the son of a great storyteller. Writing is how he learned to finish his stories and poetry is how he learned to tell them with the least amount of words possible. Belal recently traveled across the North Coast sharing his stories for The Moth Mainstage. A finalist in Brutal Nation’s 2017 Competition for Writers of Color. You can find his work published in Columbia Poetry Review, Newtown Literary, Blueshift Journal, Flock, Apogee, HEart, and others. Currently working towards his MFA in Creative Writing at Queens College and is an Academic Advisor for LaGuardia Community College.

Sahar Romani is a poet and educator. She trained as a geographer and ethnographer at the University of Washington and Oxford before pursuing her MFA at New York University. A recipient of the 2017 Poets House Emerging Poets Fellowship, her poems appear in The Offing, Asian American Writers’ Workshop’s Margins, and elsewhere.

This event will be livestreamed on the Asian American Writers’ Facebook page.

*The space is wheelchair accessible. No stairs. Direct elevator from ground floor to 6th floor.
*We strongly encourage all participants of the space/event to be scent-free.
If you all have any other specific questions about accessibility, please email Tiffany Le at with any questions on reserving priority seating.

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Invasive species Launch Party

Marwa Helal, Sahar Romani, and Belal Mobarak
Wednesday, January 23, 2019
7:00 PM
Asian American Writers’ Workshop
112 W. 27th St, STE 600
New York NY 10001
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