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VCUQatar Students Design Cover for Anthology on Contemporary Arabian Gulf Poetry

October 17, 2011

Virginia Commonwealth University in Qatar students have designed the cover for Gathering the Tide: An Anthology of Contemporary Arabian Gulf Poetry, the anthology supported in part by the Qatar Foundation Undergraduate Research Experience Program (UREP) grant.

Gathering the Tide presents a diverse and exciting collection of poems by poets from Qatar, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, Oman, Bahrain and the United Arab Emirates. A handful of anthologies represent the Middle East in general, or individual Middle Eastern countries; however, this is the first English language collection that presents the poets of the Gulf region. The anthology will invite readers into the rich and vibrant world of the Arabian Gulf, while making available the important literary work being undertaken by the poets of this region.

Assistant Professor and Assistant Director of Liberal Arts & Sciences Patty Paine Gibbons and Adjunct Professor Samia Touati Dietz of VCUQatar, with Assistant Professor Jeff Lodge, formerly of VCUQatar and now of VCU Richmond, edited Gathering the Tide, while VCUQatar graphic design students Nawar Al-Mutlaq, Aisha Al-Naama, Al Hussein Wanas, and Ameera Makki worked on the cover design. All four students graduated in May 2011.

The graphic design students became involved as part of a class (Print II), that is run as a collaborative workshop. Students were given the opportunity to choose a project based on affinity for a particular subject matter, and “the students associated with the anthology were enthusiastic supporters of Gibbons and the anthology,” said Law Alsobrook, assistant professor of Graphic Design.

The project ran as a three-week project wherein the students had to interview the client (Gibbons, in this case), conceptualize not only the cover, but other collateral materials for the project. “After interviewing the client and doing their own research about poetry and anthologies, the students then had brainstorming sessions as part of their process in arriving at their cover. I know that there was interest in Arabic calligraphy from the outset and so a good bit of research and experimentation went into that direction, among others,” added Alsobrook.

“Working with the students of Print II as part of a collaborative experience, I am continually amazed at what a few students can do in such a short period of time. It is truly remarkable to see students galvanized by both subject matter and the ability to work with each other on a
topic they find interesting. It is what education is all about, when you see the transformative power of design education in action as students become professional designers before your eyes as they mature and change with each project,” said Alsobrook.

“Giving students the freedom to propose design/visual solutions enables them to express themselves and manifest the cumulative learning from all courses and all professors in the University,” said Muneera Spence, chair of the graphic design department. “In this case the students had just had a workshop with Iraqi calligrapher and designer Wissam Shawkat, also had experienced courses with Gibbons and various Graphic Design faculty. Besides these influences, the students supported each other, merged their creativity, and in this seamless manner brought forth this very successful and inspirational cover design.”

“I was awed and humbled by the commitment the student’s made to designing this cover, and by the cover itself which captures beautifully the essence of the anthology. They worked extremely hard and the cover they created is a work of art unto itself,” said Gibbons.

Students in VCUQatar literature classes first identified the need for a comprehensive collection of Arabian Gulf poetry, and the creation of the anthology was supported in part by a Qatar Foundation Undergraduate Research Experience Program (UREP) grant. VCUQatar students (now alumni) Fatima Mostafawi, Hend Mubarek Aleidan, Sara Marwan Al Qatami and Aisha Khalid Al Naama made invaluable contributions to the creation of the anthology.

UREP seeks to promote “Learning by Doing” and “Hands-On” mentorship activities as effective methods for undergraduate education. Gathering the Tide was a UREP project for the first year of the project. The editors spent the next two years turning it into a full length manuscript. The anthology features an introduction by David Wojahn, renowned poet, essayist and editor. The hard cover edition of the anthology will be released shortly and the paperback edition will be released in December 2011. A two-day book launch event with readings and panels in slated for February or March of 2012.

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