New Mexico History Museum

The Al-Mutanabbi Street Project: Honoring the soul of Baghdad’s literary community

February 24, 2011


On March 5, 2007, a car bomb exploded on Al-Mutanabbi Street in Baghdad, Iraq, killing 30 people and wounding more than 100. For centuries, Al-Mutanabbi Street was the center of Baghdad bookselling, the heart and soul of Baghdad’s literary and intellectual community. From its wreckage came the Al-Mutanabbi Street Coalition, which sent out a call to letterpress printers worldwide: Craft a visual response to the attack.

The response was immediate. More than 40 printers, including three from New Mexico, enthusiastically answered that first call with a powerful edition of broadsides. Since then, the number has grown to 130; a complete set will be donated to the National Library in Baghdad.

The Press at the Palace of the Governors pays homage to the effort with a new exhibition of 60 of the broadsides in the John Gaw Meem Community Room and with a special reading from the broadsides at 6 pm on Friday, March 4, in the History Museum auditorium.

Readers include poets Anne Valley-Fox, Lisa Gill and James Thomas Stevens, bookstore owner Dorothy Massey, poet and bookstore owner Leo Romero, and poet-publishers Janet Rodney, JB Bryan and John Brandi. Many of the readings will be translations of work by Iraqi poets. New Mexico printers who contributed to the project are Suzanne Vilmain of the Counting Coup Press, Janet Rodney of Weaselsleeves Press, and Tom Leech of the Palace Press.

The event is free. From March 4 through May 1, the Broadsides from the Al-Mutanabbi Street Project exhibition is open by appointment. Call Tom Leech at (505) 476-5096.

Download high-resolution images from the exhibition by clicking on "go to related media," above left.

"The Al-Mutanabbi Street Coalition is not an anti-war project, nor is it a healing project,” said Beau Beausoleil, San Francisco bookseller, poet, and initiator of the Al-Mutanabbi Street Coalition. The coalition feels that until we truly see what happened on this one winding street of booksellers and readers, on this one day in Baghdad, until we understand all the implications of an attack on the printed word and its writers, printers, booksellers and readers, until we see that this is our street, until then, we cannot truly move forward.”

The Arthur and Matta Jaffe Center for Book Arts at Florida Atlantic University has more information about the project on its website (

Phone number for publication: 505-476-5200


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