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River Flotilla to Spotlight a Greener Future

What better way to celebrate a legendary river than to float down it? For two weeks starting September 15, the Tigris River Flotilla will do just that, covering over 1,200km in hand-built, traditional Mesopotamian vessels that include a tarada, or war canoe, a guffa, timbered with pomegranate wood, and a kelek, or raft buoyed by inflatable goatskins.

More than simply re-enacting the river’s heritage, participants aim to focus attention on its present. In partnership with Waterkeepers Iraq, they will collect data on local ecology to be assessed by institutions in Iraq and Turkey. Outreach campaigns will publicize the threats facing the local ecosystem, link neighboring communities within the watershed with the wider world, and connect water conservation issues with locals’ daily lives.

Consciousness-raising events are scheduled from Hasankeyf, Turkey to Chibaish in Iraq’s southern marshes, in hopes that the near future of the Tigris will include many more direct actions to support it.

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Jennifer MacKenzie

Poet, writer and teacher Jennifer MacKenzie grew up on Bloomcrest Dr. in Bloomfield Hills, MI, which inspired her to wonder about places with patterns other than floral. Following her education at Wesleyan University's College of Letters and the University of Iowa's Writers Workshop, she followed a zig-zag course that included a pilgrimage across the top of Spain and a long sojourn in Syria in pursuit of the language of Muhammad al-Maghout and Moudthaffar al-Nawwab. While in Damascus she completed the books of poems "Distant City" and "My Not-My Soldier" (forthcoming from Fence Books) and edited the magazine Syria Today. Her poems and essays can be found in numerous journals including the Kenyon Review online, Guernica, Quarterly West, and Lungfull. She currently lives in New York.

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