Lena Khalaf Tuffaha has lived the experiences of first-generation American, immigrant, and expatriate. Her heritage is Palestinian, Jordanian, and Syrian and she is fluent in Arabic and English, and has academic proficiency in French. She has lived in and traveled across the Arab world, and many of her poems are inspired by the experience of crossing cultural, geographic and political borders, borders between languages, between the present and the living past.
Lena writes poetry, essays and translations. Her first book of poems, Water and Salt (Red Hen Press) won the 2018 Washington State Book Award for Poetry. She is the winner of the 2016 Two Sylvias Prize for her chapbook Arab in Newsland. Her essays have been published in the Seattle Times, Al-Ahram Weekly, and Kenyon Review Online. She translated the screenplay for the multi award-winning feature film When I Saw You, written and directed by Annemarie Jacir, and Lena translated I Am A Guest on This Earth by Iraqi poet Faiza Sultan, published by Dar Safi Press. Lena's poems have been published in print and online journals including Magnolia, Blackbird, Barrow Street, the Taos Journal for International Poetry and Art, Diode, Floating Bridge Review, Mizna, Borderlands: Texas Review and Sukoon. She is a nominee for the Pushcart Prize and Best of the Net. Several of her poems have been anthologized: "Running Orders," published in Letters to Palestine: American Writers Respond to War and Occupation, by Verso Press, "Seafaring Nocturne," published in Gaza Unsilenced by Just World Books, "Altered States" published in Bettering American Poetry Volume 2 by Bettering Books, "Fragment," published in Making Mirrors: Writing/Righting by Refugees by Olive Branch Press, "Immigrant," published in Ink Knows No Borders by Triangle Square Press and "Elegy" published in The BreakBeat Poets Vol. 3: Halal If You Hear Me by Haymarket Books.
Lena spent ten years working with journalists and editors as a volunteer for Seattle's Arab American community organizations. She helped to tell the stories of people living between two homelands, people who speak in translation and navigate the realities of long wars. She earned her Bachelor of Arts in Comparative Literature from the University of Washington. She is an MFA graduate from Pacific Lutheran University's Rainier Writing Workshop.
Lena is passionate about poetry, the perfect cup of coffee, travel, language, freedom and equality, and gardening. She lives with her husband and daughters in Redmond, Washington.