Glenn Shaheen on his poem, “Israel”

Glenn Shaheen’s poem, “Israel,” appears in our Spring 2012 issue, guest edited by Nick Flynn. “Israel” opens with these lines:

Steam lifting from the highways, ascending
to the heavens beneath the misery of commute,
fires below the pavement. I have become

a better driver by the standards of Houston.
I will hurt somebody if they deserve to be hurt.
No, OK, no, but I’m an expert in menace. All

this blinding steel and glass, we’ve made
the world a brighter place. They tell me Israel
is a great problem. I don’t care.

Here, Glenn Shaheen describes the inspiration for his poem:

When somebody finds out I’m Canadian, they presume I am a hockey fan, which I guess is true (go Sens). When people find out I’m Arab, a lot of people, educated people, presume I have a predetermined set of opinions about all things Middle Eastern. I do have opinions, and I suppose many of them are predetermined, perhaps by environment, hemisphere, capitalism, etc, but I don’t like the knowing looks of it all. I feel more Canadian than Arab, but that’s not what people want to hear.