June 18, 2023 will mark 40 years since 10 Baha’i women were hanged in Shiraz. Their only ‘crime’ was their refusal to renounce their beliefs in a faith that promotes the principles of gender equality, unity, justice, and truthfulness. This collection highlights Baha’i Blog content relating to the ongoing persecution of Baha’is in Iran.
e*lix*ir (www.elixir-journal.org) is a Baha’i-inspired journal of the arts founded and edited by Sandra Lynn Hutchison. The journal, which is released twice a year and which has published an impressive 13 volumes thus far, offers stories, poetry, essays, and art by a diversity of emerging and established artists.
Sandra graciously agreed to tell us about the journal and we’re delighted to share our conversation with you:
Baha’i Blog: To begin could you please tell us a little bit about yourself?
I am writer, editor, and university teacher who is passionate about exploring the intersection of art, spirituality, and community in a Baha’i context.
Baha’i Blog: Could you please tell us a little about how elixir-journal.org came to be?
I launched e*lix*ir (www.elixir-journal.org) six years ago now because I felt a journal of the arts was needed. Our mission statement probably says it best: “e*lix*ir comes into being to showcase the work of artists who find inspiration in the Baha’i vision and to foster an aesthetic whose key ingredient is the conviction that the mission of art is to inspire, transform, and uplift individuals and communities.” I believe that art has the power to effect this kind of change and that the artist belongs at the heart of the community, not on its margins. It is my hope that e*lix*ir will nurture a community of like-minded creators and readers.
Baha’i Blog: What was the inspiration behind naming the journal e*lix*ir?
I wanted the name of the journal to evoke the transformative power of art. I have always found the metaphor of the elixir, which appears several times in the Baha’i Writings, incredibly powerful. There is a verse in the Kitab-i-Iqan in which Baha’u’llah writes: “…the real elixir will, in one instant, cause the substance of copper to attain the state of gold….” I believe that art has the power to do this — to bring about radical change in the individual and in society.
Baha’i Blog: What types of submissions have been included? And what types of writers and artists have been involved?
We publish both established and emerging writers and visual artists, but all of them creators who believe in and draw upon the power of spirit in their art making. We have published 13 issues of e*lix*ir. Our most recent issue features a link to a global poetry event at which a number of e*lix*ir poets commemorated the centenary of the passing of Abdu’l-Baha by reading poems they had written about Him. In issue # 13, there is also an interview with Mahvash Sabet, poems from her recent volumes, and an essay she wrote about her journey as a poet. In the past, we have published special issues: one showcased stories and poems for children and another featured essays by Baha’i youth in Iran. And as the occasion calls for it, we reflect on important events in the Baha’i community, such as the recent centenary commemoration. Each issue includes work by a contemporary visual artist; we have showcased a wide range of idioms and styles, from Persian calligraphy to abstract expressionism. In terms of writing, we have featured poetry, short stories, personal essays, book reviews, and translations of various kinds, from the Baha’i Writings to the poetry of Rumi. In each issue, we publish essays by Baha’i youth living in Iran and a comic entitled “Ruhi & Riaz,” which highlights some of the challenges those youth face. Another feature is “The Writing Life,” a column in which writers speak to other writers about their craft. I am especially excited about a new genre we are exploring in the journal — the Personal Reflection Piece, which is a form of writing rooted in a close reading of a passage from the Baha’i Writings to which the writer is drawn.
Baha’i Blog: How has the journal been received so far?
We publish twice a year, at Ridvan and at the time of the Twin Birthdays and with each issue our readership grows. Readers who would like to receive new issues of the journal when they appear can let us know at [email protected]. As for reception, the Baha’i International Community Office in New York has praised e*lix*ir for its publication of essays by Baha’i youth in Iran. One well-known Maine poet has described e*lix*ir as “a garden, an oasis, and a temple.” Readers have even told us that the journal gave them a glimpse of the future arts! We received some really encouraging remarks from one of our visual artists, who told us he was “proud to be associated with this courageous journal at this moment in human history.” My impression is that the journal is filling a need, both for creators and for those who appreciate the arts.
Baha’i Blog: What are your plans for the future?
Currently, we are looking to expand the reach of the journal by adding a sister publication – a blog. We are very fortunate to have the support of so many highly qualified and committed people: writers, artists, reviewers, translators and photographers. And e*lix*ir would not be possible without our assistant editor and webmaster J. Michael Kafes – J.M. But there is still room for others. We would especially welcome anyone who would take up the task of promoting the journal on social media. Anyone interested can contact me at [email protected]
Baha’i Blog: How can people submit a piece or become involved in this wonderful initiative?
Writers and visual artists can submit their work (websites only for the visual artists) at [email protected] And, as I said, we would love to hear from anyone who is interested in assisting us with promoting the journal on various digital platforms!
Baha’i Blog: Thank you so very much, Sandra, for taking the time to share this with us.
In her innermost heart, Sonjel is a stay-at-home parent and a bookworm with a maxed out library card but professionally she is a museologist with a background in English Literature. She currently lives on Prince Edward Island, an isle in the shape of a smile on the eastern Canadian coast. Sonjel is a writer who loves to listen to jazz when she's driving at night.