I am a writer, performance artist, and educator currently living in Montreal, Quebec, one of the most foreign places in North America. I lived in Toronto for two years where I got an MA in education, and before that lived, worked, and performed in New York City where I'd gotten a BA in writing. I was born in Egypt, and as a kid moved to Oklahoma and eventually Ohio. ‘Place’ has always been much more of a cultural axis for me than race or class or gender, and in the past few years, I’ve come to focus creatively and critically on what I feel is a largely unimagined sphere - the wide nexus between nature and culture that many inhabit in such places as the Midwest. About three years ago, I embarked on a trip around the vast Great Lakes region that sits between the US and Canada out of a desire to substantiate a very uniquely wild yet populated part of our continent. This has since been a steadily evolving writing and performance project with some published pieces, as well constituting the central subject of my critical master’s thesis completed in 2009 - 'Circumnavigating the Great Lakes by Land and Writing / Towards and Aesthetics and Ethics of Nature and Sociality.'
My previous major project was Habib Albi is…Not a Man, a one-man performance poetry show staged around an overhead projector and a video of the twin Budweiser towers in Columbus Ohio, near my childhood home. The show deals with the Midwest and 9/11; an Arab-American identity there; romance and gender in light of that; creating a new Arabic love poetry; and other themes. It first showed in Columbus and then in New York City at such venues as the Nuyorican Poets Cafe, Bowery Poetry Club, Brecht Forum, and others. In Toronto it played at A Space and XPACE, and Eastern Bloc in Montreal as part of an interdisciplinary show about language in different mediums. Other performance work includes the show Confess Confess at Madlab Theatre and various spots in group shows and performance events. I have also published in Three Plum Review, Mizna, and through Buffalo Runs Press the chapbook this beach has more than two sides, a set of Great Lakes poems.
My writing looks a lot at the salvaging of a self from the consuming dispositions of our socio-political environment. It also strives to open up the explicitness of language to the more affective forms of performance and visual art. The richness of words can be made very differently productive when pulled off the page and onto the stage. Poetry performs well because it relies on going beyond the ordinary syntax of language to communicate something phenomenal about the world around us. It has the ability to portray how our psyche works, how our very thoughts and feelings are made clear only through language, yet how that language is never whole, never correct, always an evocation of something we know or ponder beyond the linguistic. This tension is a profoundly authentic human experience that I would like audiences to consider as an intrinsic part of all personal and social identity-making. What’s more, the subject of nature and its place in human life plays perfectly with this tension because nature and wildlife appeal to us in non-linguistic yet not strictly physical ways, and we respond in kind. Poetry thrives at this register between the human and non-human. Performance can evoke the experiential, external dimension to place, yet also capture the acts of memory that render and internalize it.