A Song by the Aegean Sea is a song for the unsung heroes of the coast of Izmir, Turkey, or Smyrna, that cosmopolitan city through the different ages. The book celebrates the underbelly of the city; the gypsies selling flowers, the roving musicians, the mussel-sellers, and the protestors. The elements of the city’s coastline are also merged with the characters in an impressionistic, yet surreal canvas from a stranger’s point of view. The traveler, i.e., the poet, or the singer of the Aegean song yearns to become part of the scene.
Mohamed Metwalli was recognized as a poet in the Arab world at a young age. Shortly after his degree in 1992 from the English department of Cairo University, his volume, Once Upon a Time, won the Yussef El-Khal prize for the best first collection by a poet in the Arab-speaking world, conferred by the Lebanese publishers, Riad El-Rayyes Books. He co-founded an independent literary magazineEl-Garad, in which his second book appeared: The Story the People Tell, Here, in the Harbor and, in 1997, he was selected to represent Egypt in the International Writers' Program at the University of Iowa. The year after, he served as Poet-in-Residence at the University of Chicago. Metwalli compiled and co-edited an anthology of Off-beat Egyptian Poetry, Angry Voices, for the University of Arkansas Press in 2002. His third collection, The Lost Promenades, was published in 2010 by Al-Ketaba Al-Okhra, and A Song by the Aegean Sea came out in 2015 with Afaq Publishers. His poetry has been translated into French, German, and English, and his own translations have appeared widely in literary journals. In 2018 he was commissioned by the British Museum to render their conference publication, Asyut, Guardian City, into Arabic.
After graduating from Brown University in 1984, Gretchen McCullough taught English in Egypt, Turkey, and Japan. She earned her MFA in Creative Writing from the University of Alabama and was awarded a teaching Fulbright to Syria from 1997-1999. Her stories, essays, and reviews have appeared in The Barcelona Review, Archipelago, National Public Radio, Story South, Guernica, The Literary Review, and The LA Review of Books. Translations into English and Arabic with Mohamed Metwalli have been published in: Nizwa, Banipal, Brooklyn Rail in Translation, World Literature Today and Washington Square Review. Her bi-lingual book of short stories in English and Arabic, Three Stories from Cairo, also translated with Mohamed Metwalli, was published in July 2011 by Afaq Publishers, Cairo. A collection of short stories about expatriate life in Cairo, Shahrazad's Tooth, was published by Afaq as well in 2013. Her novel, Confessions of A Knight Errant is forthcoming from Cune Press, Fall 2022. Currently, she teaches writing at the American University in Cairo.