A Travelling Poet

by Bänoo Zan

BanooLeaving Iran, the land I have always loved more than any god or human, was not easy. What made it even harder was that Iran is a poetic land. But I was brave enough to be a coward, leave my years there behind and plunge into “the universe.”

Soon after I landed, I started to explore the literary scene in Toronto. I attended as many events as I could. The one advantage of being an immigrant is that I am forever an outsider and an insider. I go places to inspire and be inspired, to challenge and be challenged. I am an explorer. After I started my own poetry reading series, Shab-e She’r, I also started going to events to discover features! I believe people from the Middle East need to actively get involved in the mainstream poetry movements. I also know the catch-22: we are excluded and/or are excluding ourselves from many such events and are usually rewarded only after we are reduced to or reduce ourselves to apolitical exotic Orientals.

With that in mind, I don’t think I am exaggerating if I claim that I am one of very few first-generation immigrant women from the Middle East who are directly recording their experiences of exile in English. I write about me by not writing about me. Writing my life is my biographer’s job. So, here I am in Toronto, sharing my poetry at events where most of the time I am the only person from my part of the world or the only person of colour in the room.

I think the world is in a crisis (as it has always been), and I believe it is the poets’ po-ethical responsibility to intervene! In my poetry series, “Shab-e She’r,” I am trying to bring together excellent politically progressive poets from different ethnicities, religions, ages, genders, sexual orientations, poetic styles, and more.

It is an ambitious project for a border crossing immigrant with no strong ties to any community or individual. Please support Shab-e She’r by attending events, and if possible, join the team. My dream is to make this series ours, not mine. Claim it as yours.


drummers I’d like to invite you to some Toronto poetry events in April and May:

Shab-e She’r:

  1. Shab-e She’r XVII, April 29th , featuring Jeannine Pitas and Whitney French
  2. Shab-e She’r XVIII, May 27th, featuring Vanessa McGowan and Josh Smith


Featured Performances and Guest Appearances:

  1. Guest Poet at Portobello, May 3
  1. Mini Feature at Rowers Reading Series, May 5
  1. May 12, Blue Coffee Reading Series

(The Photos are from the most recent Shab-e She’r on March 25th. Photo credit: Lisa Wong)