51 Immigrant Poets – An interactive map on the ‘Muslim ban’

In light of recent events concerning Donald Trump’s refugee ban, which has, for the moment, been stopped in its tracks by US judge James Robart, we decided to delve a bit deeper into the lives of poets that have moved to the U.S. and who, if the ban was effective at the time, may never have been able to tread on US soil. For those who are unaware, America’s newest president, Donald Trump, has implemented an executive order that bans Syrian refugees from entering the U.S. indefinitely. The order has also blocked citizens from seven mostly Muslim countries from entering the U.S. for 90 days – Yemen, Sudan, Somalia, Libya, Iraq, Iran, and Syria. And, finally, for 120 days, all people that are fleeing their homeland because they fear violence are also blocked from the U.S. Needless to say, we don’t agree with the ban, and hope the district judge’s blocking order is made permanent, but it made us reflect on all of the poets that have entered the U.S. over the years.

We have put together an interactive map, which features more than 50 immigrant poets. You can click on each number to find out more about the poet in question and their story. The green pointers indicate poets that moved to the U.S. from countries that have now been banned. The blue pointers indicate poets that have moved to the U.S. from other countries. Below, we are going to take a look at some of their stories in further detail, starting with poets that have moved from one of the seven banned countries.

Immigrants from Iran

There are a number of poets that have moved from Iran, and one that has spoken out about Trump’s executive order is Mohsen Emadi. Emadi left Iran as a political exile. Today, continues to edit the Persian Anthology of World Poetry, for which he is the founder. He currently lives in Mexico, yet states that both the literary and Iranian communities in Los Angeles have been a solace to him. He stated: “Trump’s order is legitimate… it’s not just. It’s humiliating to America. I don’t want America to feel that Shame.

Other poets that have moved from Iran include Sholeh Wolpe, Nader Naderpour, Mahnaz Badihian, and Majid Naficy. Majid’s background is a devastating tale. He was born in Iran in 1952, where he spent his time publishing award-winning children’s books and poetry. He was politically active against the Shah’s regime during the 1970’s. During the revolution in 1979, his brother and his first wife were amongst many to be executed when the new regime began to suppress the opposition. He then fled to Los Angeles with his son in 1983. While Sholeh Wolpe did not spend the majority of her life in Iran, a great deal of her poems deal with the conflict in the Middle East. She has won numerous awards for her brave approach to the situation in the Middle East, which is coupled with her ability to playfully refuse to let death be too proud.

Immigrants from Iraq

Numerous poets have also moved from Iraq to the U.S., including Dunya Mikhail and Sinan Antoon. Dunya Mikhail fled to the U.S., claiming fear of violence, as she was receiving harassment and threats from the Iraqi authorities for her writings. She went to Jordan first and then escaped to America. She was awarded the Human Rights Award by the United Nations in 2001 for Freedom of Writing. Described as “one of the most acclaimed authors of the Arab world”, Sinan Antoon has also received numerous awards and honours for his writing. He moved to the U.S. in 1991, after the onset of the Gulf War.

Immigrants from Syria

Mohja Kahf is a poet from Damascus, Syria. She moved to America with her family in 1971, and all members have been heavily involved in Syrian opposition politics. Her famous poetic works include “My People are Rising”, “Asiya’s Aberrance” and “The Mihrab of the Mind.”

Immigrants from Libya

When it comes to poets that have moved to the U.S. from Libya, one name comes to mind, and that’s renowned Arab-American writer Khaled Mattawa. He spent his childhood and early teens in Libya, before emigrating to the U.S. in 1979, where he finished high school in Louisiana. He has won numerous awards over the years, including two Pushcart prizes and an Academy of American Poets award.

Immigrants from Somalia

Ladan Osman is a renowned poet that has moved to the U.S. from Somalia. He has lived in Chicago since 2014, although she has been resident in America for many years. Her poetry is centered on her Muslim and Somali heritage.

Immigrants from Sudan

Emtithal Mahmoud recently won the Individual World Poetry Slam two years ago for her works, which center on the traumatic experiences she went through growing up. Her family were driven from Sudan by war when she was a child. She then returned to Sudan when she was seven years old. Her parents took part in a protest at the time, as the government had stopped paying teachers. Emtithal and her friends were so scared; they hid under the bed with fear. She then moved back to America, where she completed her studies and made a name for herself as an incredible poet.

Poets that have moved to the U.S. from other countries around the world

There are many other incredible poets that have moved to the U.S., including Etel Adnan from Lebanon, Suheir Hammad from Jordan, and Susan Abulhawa from Kuwait – three countries that are deemed dangerous at present.

Other famous poets include Bertolt Brecht, from Germany, and Andre Breton, from France, both of whom fled to the U.S. during WWII. As did May Sarton, a poet that was born in Belgium and moved to the U.S. after the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand, when WWI was beginning.

Vladimir Nabokov from Russia also fled to America in 1940 with his family, as a result of advancing German troops. His brother tragically died at a concentration camp. Joseph Brodsky also moved from Russia to the U.S., as he was expelled from the Soviet Union in 1972.

Octavio Paz, a Mexican poet who won the Nobel Prize of Literature in 1990, studied at the University of California in the U.S., after receiving a Guggenheim fellowship. Khalil Gibran, the third best-selling poet of all time, moved to the U.S. from Lebanon with his mother and siblings while his father was in prison for embezzlement. He settled in the South End of Boston.

Reinaldo Arenas, a famous Cuban poet, fled to the U.S. after experiencing lots of trouble in his home country. He rebelled against the Cuban government, and he was sent to prison for ‘ideological deviation.’ He tried to escape numerous times, and finally died in 1980 after being threatened with death.

Many poets have also moved from the UK to the U.S., including Anne Bradstreet and Thom Gunn. Anne Bradstreet was actually one of the most prominent early English poets of North America and the first ever female to be published in England’s North American colonies.

As you can see, many great poets have moved to the U.S. over the years, blessing us all with their incredible pieces of work. They have brought a great deal to America, and other countries too, and we certainly hope that Trump reconsiders his stance towards immigration policy in order to allow the experiences and literature that has resulted from travel into and across America.


  • Blackhawkwings

    Awesome facts and discoveries seldom thought to research on. I love reading about these awesome Poets!

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