Maya Salameh Named Winner of the 2022 Etel Adnan Poetry Prize

Maya Salameh
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Maya Salameh

FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. – Maya Salameh was awarded the 2022 Etel Adnan Poetry Prize for her manuscript How to Make an Algorithm in the Microwave. Salameh will receive a $1,000 cash prize, and her manuscript will be published as the fifth title in the Etel Adnan Poetry Series by the University of Arkansas Press. 

Edited by poets Hayan Charara and Fady Joudah, the series proudly supports the work of writers of Arab heritage.

“I was delighted to find out I’d received this prize,” says Salameh. “Adnan is one of my writing inspirations, and I’ve enjoyed the works from this series so much. Each collection felt like being let into a new secret, a new universe in my language. It’s an honor to join such a family of books.”

On the genesis of the work she submitted, Salameh emphasized that it was written “first and foremost for Arab girls, and all the newly American girls told to remain quiet and marriageable, often as they feel like they are being suffocated.”

Charara and Joudah noted that despite the global pandemic, the submissions for this year’s prize were some of the most accomplished and diverse manuscripts the series has seen. “Maya Salameh’s poetry stood out for its inventiveness in cracking the code of life ‘between system and culture,'” they said.

The confluence of the divine and digital are at the heart of How to Make an Algorithm in the Microwave. In a layering of prayer, memory and code, Salameh brings technological concepts into conversation with the daily machinations of womanhood, whether liner, lipstick or blood. 

She explores the intimate relationships we have with our devices, speaking back to an algorithm that serves as both watcher and watching, data thief and surrogate confidant. Experimenting with photo and form to create an intimate collage of personal and neocolonial history, these poems explore how an Arab girl survives the digitization of her body. In this collection, Corinthians melt from computers; apostles, Aleppo and Amy Winehouse sing in tandem.

“The turns and swerves the poems make are astonishing; the expectations they upend are remarkable,” said Charara and Joudah. “Hers is an intelligent, joyous, dynamic poetry that celebrates form and body. It’s a testament to the aesthetic boundaries and intellectual revolt poets of Arab heritage are pushing, breaking and reinventing.”

Maya Salameh is a Syrian American and Lebanese American poet from San Diego, California. A 2016 National Student Poet, she has performed her writing at venues including the Obama White House and Carnegie Hall. Her work has appeared in The Rumpus, Asian American Writer’s Workshop, and The Brooklyn Review, among others. She served in 2020 as the inaugural artist-in-residence at the Markaz Resource Center at Stanford University, and is cochair for the Institute for Diversity in the Arts.

The U of A Press accepts year-round submissions for the Etel Adnan Poetry Series and annually awards publication and the $1,000 Etel Adnan Poetry Prize to a first or second book of poetry, in English, by a writer of Arab heritage. 

Since its inception in 2015 the series has sought to celebrate and foster the writings and writers who make up the vibrant Arab American community, and the U of A Press has long been committed to publishing diverse kinds of poetry by a diversity of poets. The prize is named in honor of the world-renowned poet, novelist, essayist and artist Etel Adnan. Publication is supported in part by the Center for Middle East Studies at the U of A.

About the University of Arkansas Press: The University of Arkansas Press, a division of the University of Arkansas Office of Research and Innovation, advances the mission of the University of Arkansas by publishing peer-reviewed scholarship and literature of enduring value. The Press publishes books by authors of diverse backgrounds writing for specialty as well as general audiences in Arkansas and throughout the world.

About the University of Arkansas: As Arkansas' flagship institution, the U of A provides an internationally competitive education in more than 200 academic programs. Founded in 1871, the U of A contributes more than $2.2 billion to Arkansas’ economy through the teaching of new knowledge and skills, entrepreneurship and job development, discovery through research and creative activity while also providing training for professional disciplines. The Carnegie Foundation classifies the U of A among the top 3% of U.S. colleges and universities with the highest level of research activity. U.S. News & World Report ranks the U of A among the top public universities in the nation. See how the U of A works to build a better world at Arkansas Research News.

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