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Announcing the 2020 Norma Farber Award winner, Zaina Alsous

May 07, 2020

Zaina Alsous is the 2020 recipient of the Poetry Society of America's Norma Farber Book Award for her book A Theory of Birds (University of Arkansas Press).

The Norma Farber Book Award honors a first book of original poetry written by a living author.

The Judge was Matthew Shenoda.


Matthew Shenoda's Citation:

In Zaina Alsous’ A Theory of Birds we are ushered into a re-calibration of the world, one intent on the eradication of that which has been oppressive and divisive. In these poems history unravels us in fragments, causing us to fold ourselves into a new definition of “self” and an unabashed rejection of our positions as “subjects.” The poems found here are an honest and open exploration of how we come into a sense of our own understanding in a postcolonial world. Alsous’ poems are driven by the asking, often posing sentient questions like “who translated kings and not birds?"; questions that cause us to think of redefinition. And while her poems are searing in their critiques of political, racial, and gendered domination, like all good artists she is poignant in her ability to implicate herself at every turn and help us break through the binaries we often use to define ourselves. Hers is an aesthetic of fragmentation as a collective piecing together. A Theory of Birds teaches us that the interior narratives, the often quiet things that make each of us whole, are the most essential.



Zaina Alsous is a prison abolitionist, a daughter of the Palestinian diaspora, and a movement worker in South Florida. Her poetry, reviews, and essays have been published in POETRY Magazine, The Kenyon Review, the New Inquiry, Adroit, and elsewhere. She edits for Scalawag Magazine, a publication dedicated to unsettling dominant narratives of the U.S. South. Her chapbook Lemon Effigies won the Rick Campbell Chapbook Prize and was published by Anhinga Press. Her first full-length collection A Theory of Birds won the Etel Adnan Poetry Prize, and was published by the University of Arkansas Press in the fall of 2019.