Introducing Lena Khalaf Tuffaha

It is our great pleasure to introduce our first ever Poet-in-Residence, Lena Khalaf Tuffaha. During her tenure, which will last through June of next year, Lena will write a monthly column in our newsletter (see below for her introductory letter), facilitate our “Sundays after SAL” discussion group, curate readings, and write on-site every Tuesday. The work she generates during her writing time here will be sent to the wonderful literary letterpress Expedition Press, to be included in a three-part broadside series, the first of which will be available for sale here in November. We’re also happy to announce that we’ll be featuring broadsides by Expedition Press on our art wall this fall. Click here to learn more about this terrific local treasure!


From Lena:

Dear Friends of Open Books,

At my final MFA residency this past summer, I was struck, while listening to a discussion about the work of the writer in (all) difficult times, by a challenge Lia Purpura, a celebrated poet and essayist, posed to herself: “I want to live more like a poem asks me to live.”

I’ve been reflecting on that sentence since she spoke it, wondering about what that ask might entail, what those qualities of a poem might be that can inform a life beyond the page.

Beginning this fall, I look forward to meeting you here every month to share some of the treasures of conversation and discovery that an immersion in this poetry sanctuary makes possible. And I’ll attempt to imagine some answers to the challenge Lia posed: How might a poem ask us to live?


LenaLena Khalaf Tuffaha  is a poet, writer, and translator. She is the winner of the 2016 Two Sylvias Chapbook Prize for Arab in Newsland, and the author of Water & Salt, a book of poems from Red Hen Press published in April 2017.