Skip to this page's content

Alum Profiles

Nathalie Handal '91, '93 English

Seduced By Words

Handal, a poet, playwright and writer, sees the world as a poem — a poem she keeps writing and rewriting.

"I have always been in love with words and never cease to be seduced by them," says Nathalie Handal, a poet, playwright and writer living in New York City. "As a child, I told endless stories and was very much encouraged to read. Today, I see the world as a poem — a poem I keep writing and rewriting. All that I observe, that I experience, filters itself into words."

Handal graduated from Simmons's undergraduate college with a bachelor's degree in international relations. She took several writing courses as an undergrad and was strongly encouraged by English Professor David Gullette to apply to the school's graduate program in English. "Although I always loved literature and writing, my M.A. in English helped me to define myself as a professional writer," explains Handal, who went on to secure other post-graduate degrees from Bennington College and the University of London. "Simmons gave me a very solid educational base and the confidence to live and survive as a writer."

Having grown up all over the world — including the Middle East, Latin America, the Caribbean, and Europe — Handal was exposed to various cultures, languages, people, political climates, and social realities. "Because I grew up in these extreme contexts — from poverty in the Caribbean and Latin America, to war-torn countries in the Middle East, to wealth in the United States and Europe — my political consciousness was heightened at a young age," says Handal. "I have always been extremely curious about the world and its people, their similarities, and differences. I have profound respect for how communities preserve the beauty of their past, of their traditions, and of their histories."

Handal's work has appeared in numerous magazines and literary journals in the U.S., Europe, and the Middle East, and in anthologies such as 110 Stories: New York Writes After September 11. In 2000, she edited The Poetry of Arab Women: A Contemporary Anthology, which became an Academy of American Poets bestseller and won the Pen Oakland/Josephine Miles Award. Handal teaches at Columbia University, and her latest poetry book, The Lives of Rain, is forthcoming. She is presently finishing a book of short stories, working on two theatrical productions, and editing three anthologies.

"Through my work and my life, I have come to understand the unending journey into a culture, and that incredible moment when a place or a person has just taught you something, given you something, made you aware of them — of yourself — in a way so unknown to you, so magical and mysterious, it blows you away. And you can only but honor that instant, and realize that you just had a moment with God."