Preface authors(s)
Afterword author(s)

“Poems from Guantánamo brings to light figures of concrete, individual humanity, against the fabric of cruelty woven by the ‘war on terror.’ The poems and poets’ biographies reveal one dimension of this officially obscured narrative, from the perspective of the sufferers; the legal and literary essays provide the context which has produced—under atrocious circumstances—a poetics of human dignity.”—Adrienne Rich

Since 2002, at least 775 men have been held in the U.S. detention center at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba. According to Department of Defense data, fewer than half of them are accused of committing any hostile act against the United States or its allies. In hundreds of cases, even the circumstances of their initial detainment are questionable.

This collection gives voice to the men held at Guantánamo. Available only because of the tireless efforts of pro bono attorneys who submitted each line to Pentagon scrutiny, Poems from Guantánamo brings together twenty-two poems by seventeen detainees, most still at Guantánamo, in legal limbo.

If, in the words of Audre Lorde, poetry “forms the quality of light within which we predicate our hopes and dreams toward survival and change,” these verses—some originally written in toothpaste, others scratched onto foam drinking cups with pebbles and furtively handed to attorneys—are the most basic form of the art.

Death Poem

by Jumah al Dossari (mp3)

Take my blood.
Take my death shroud and
The remnants of my body.
Take photographs of my corpse at the grave, lonely.

Send them to the world,
To the judges and
To the people of conscience,
Send them to the principled men and the fair-minded.

And let them bear the guilty burden before the world,
Of this innocent soul.
Let them bear the burden before their children and before history,
Of this wasted, sinless soul,
Of this soul which has suffered at the hands of the “protectors of peace.”

Jumah al Dossari is a thirty-three-year-old Bahraini who has been held at Guantánamo Bay for more than five years. He has been in solitary confinement since the end of 2003 and, according to the U.S. military, has tried to kill himself twelve times while in custody.

Audio Files

Listen to poems:






Readings by Joan Kjaer and David Hamilton. Copyright 2007 University of Iowa Press. All rights reserved.

Additional Resources and Information

The Wall Street Journal's feature on Poems from Guantánamo, please click here.

The New York Times coverage, please click here.

The Washington Post's coverage, please click here.

National Public Radio's broadcast, please click here.

This American Life's Peabody Award-winning report, "Habeas Schmabeas," please click here.

PBS's Frontline, "Son of al Qaeda," please click here.

The U.S. Navy, Guantánamo Base site, please click here.

To learn more about The Road to Guantánamo film, please click here.

The Center for Constitutional Rights, Guantánamo Global Justice Initiative, please click here.

The National Guantánamo Coalition page, please click here.

Joint Task Force, Guantánamo Bay, please click here.

U.S. Department of Defense, Military Commissions Proceedings, Guantánamo Bay, please click here.

BBC report, "Life in a Guantánamo Cell," please click here.

Human Rights Watch, please click here.

The Guantánamo Blog, by H. Candace Gorman, habeas attorney, please click here.

Project Hamad, please click here.

Timeline Theatre, "Guantánamo: Honor Bound to Defend Freedom," please click here.

American Civil Liberties Union, please click here.

ACLU directory of government documents requested under the Freedom of Information Act related to treatment of detainees, please click here.

PEN American Center, please click here.

American Booksellers Foundation for Free Expression, please click here.

U.S. Department of State, Detainee Issues Archives, please click here.

United Nations report on treatment of detainees, please click here.

Seton Hall University School of Law, "Report on Guantánamo Detainees: A Profile of 517 Detainees through Department of Defense Data," please click here.

Seton Hall University School of Law, "Second Report on the Guantánamo Detainees: Inter- and Intra-Departmental Disagreements about Who Is Our Enemy," please click here.

International Committee of the Red Cross, "The ICRC's work at Guantánamo Bay," statement on confidential report on alleged abuse of detainees, made in response to New York Times report of treatment "tantamount to torture," please click here.

International Committee of the Red Cross' work at Guantánamo Bay, please click here.

UC Davis Human Rights Center, please click here.

UC Davis Human Rights Center testimonials from Guantánamo Bay, please click here.

410media's interactive review, please click here.

Daily Kos story 1, please click here.

Daily Kos story 2, please click here.

Boston Globe's op-ed, please click here.

Review from the Socialist Worker, please click here.

Please check out what On The Media has to say here.

To read Andy Worthington's article, please click here.

To read Nth Position's article, please click here.

To read about poetry that saves, please click here.

“At last Guantánamo has found its voice.”—Gore Vidal

“Poetry, art of the human voice, helps turn us toward what we should or must not ignore. Speaking as they can across barriers actual and figurative, translated into our American tongue, these voices in confinement implicitly call us to our principles and to our humanity. They deserve, above all, not admiration or belief or sympathy—but attention. Attention to them is urgent for us.”—Robert Pinsky

Notes on Guantanamo: an introduction by Marc Falkoff
Forms of Suffering in Muslim Prison Poetry: a preface by Flagg Miller

They Fight for Peace, Shaker Abdurraheem Aamer

O Prison Darkness, Abdulaziz

I Shall Not Complain, Abdulaziz

To My Father, Abdullah Thani Faris al Anazi

Lions in the Cage, Ustad Badruzzaman Badr

Homeward Bound, Moazzam Begg

Death Poem, Jumah al Dossari

They Cannot Help, Shakih Abdurraheem Muslim Dost

Cup Poem 1, Shakih Abdurraheem Muslim Dost

Cup Poem 2, Shakih Abdurraheem Muslim Dost

Two Fragments, Shakih Abdurraheem Muslim Dost

First Poem of My Life, Mohammed el Gharani

Humiliated in the Shackles, Sami al Haj

The Truth, Emad Abdullah Hassan

Is It True? Osama Abu Kabir

Hunger Strike Poem, Adnan Farhan Abdul Latif

I Am Sorry, My Brother, Othman Abdulraheem Mohammad

Terrorist 2003, Martin Mubanga

I Write My Hidden Longing, Abdulla Majid al Noaimi, the Captive of Dignity

My Heart Was Wounded by the Strangeness, Abdulla Majid al Noaimi, the Captive of Dignity

Ode to the Sea, Ibrahim al Rubaish

Even if the Pain, Siddiq Turkestani

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Publication Details

Publication Date
84 pages
Trim size
5 x 8 inches