by Bänoo Zan
Leaving 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.
- Shab-e She’r XVII, April 29th , featuring Jeannine Pitas and Whitney French
- Shab-e She’r XVIII, May 27th, featuring Vanessa McGowan and Josh Smith
Featured Performances and Guest Appearances:
- Guest Poet at Portobello, May 3
- Mini Feature at Rowers Reading Series, May 5
- May 12, Blue Coffee Reading Series
(The Photos are from the most recent Shab-e She’r on March 25th. Photo credit: Lisa Wong)