In The Dawn-Breakers, the Bab quotes a well-known Islamic tradition that states, “Treasures lie hidden beneath the throne of God; the key to those treasures is the tongue of poets.” June Perkins’ book of poems, Illuminations, written in honor of the bicentenary anniversaries of the Births of Baha’u’llah and the Bab, seems to meet that description.
Illuminations contains 19 poems, one story, and is accompanied by the art of Ruha and Minaira Fifita. Some of the poems harken back to the days of The Dawn-Breakers and others are timeless in their setting but as a collection, June has deftly sewn them all together: each poem is a jewel, the collection is a well-arranged piece of jewelry.
June tells us all about her book in this interview and we hope you enjoy our conversation:
Baha’i Blog: Could you please tell us a little bit about yourself and your work as a poet?
Poetry has been a lifelong friend, through thick and thin, from my youngest brother’s acquired head injury to living through Cyclone Yasi and its aftermath and encountering the trials and joys of life.
I think of poets as canaries flying into the darkness of human experience to emerge with balls of light. Poetry, as well as being a way to make meaning of experiences, is a powerful way to pay tribute to all we might be grateful in our lives, from people to places, to a sense of the Divine, or a Great Spirit, we may call God. Continue reading
Robert Hayden: 4 Aug 1913 - 25 Feb 1980. (Photo: US National Baha'i Archives)
Poetry and the literary arts hold special significance in the Baha’i writings. Some early Baha’is sent poetry to Abdu’l-Baha and here is an excerpt of a Tablet sent in reply:
O thou maid-servant of God! Thy poetry was received. The context was elegant. The words were eloquent and the theme, the Manifest Light. Consequently, it was highly appreciated. Endeavor, so far as it is possible for thee, that day by day thou mayest string the pearls of poesy with sweeter rhythm and more eloquent contents, in order that it may become conducive to the perpetuity of thy name in the spiritual meetings. Upon thee be greeting and praise!
In this article I attempt to pay tribute to a Robert Hayden, a Baha’i who made outstanding contributions to the art of poetry. Continue reading
When I first started writing poetry, I really wasn’t aware of what I was doing, or why I was doing it; other than the fact that I was bored out of my wits in the middle of an engineering lecture. At the time, I hadn’t heard of the “spoken word” scene, I’d never picked up a book of poetry to read, and I had no idea there was such a thing as the national poetry slam. I was just passing time in lectures.
It’s fair to say I wasn’t very passionate about being an engineer, and I certainly had no ambitions of performing poetry or publishing a book. But as it turns out, and without even realising how it came to be, that’s exactly what happened. Little did I know a pathway of service was beginning to show itself to me. Continue reading
The heroic life of Tahirih—Fatimih Umm-Salamih (1817- 1852)—has long been celebrated by playwrights, historians and Persian social reformers, especially those advocating women’s rights in present-day Iran. Though a 19th century poet of superb eloquence and variety, she is better known as a woman of dauntless faith, courage and resilience, whether by the Persian community in general or by the followers of the Baha’i religion, for whom she looms as one of the most memorable figures of the Heroic Age of the Baha’i Faith (1844-1921). Continue reading
While reading Remembrance Suite by the poet Shirin Sabri, I found myself getting caught up in emotion.
Thinking about my tearful reaction to these stunning poems, I traced them back to an unusual mixture of feelings of outrage and inspiration.
The poet tells of the wrongs done to some of the women in history but gowns the exposure with descriptions of their achievements, and their eternal glory. The vocabulary is rich, the images suffused with colour and beauty, the message as clear as a bell.
Most of the subjects of the poems are women unknown to most people in the world but they clearly made significant contributions to the great ongoing spiritual journey of humanity. We learn of Hajar and Hatshepsut, of Zenobia and Hypatia. For Baha’is we are treated to new perspectives on Khadijih Bagum, on Navaab, and on Ruhiyyih Khanum. Other subjects are Aseyeh, Maria the Jewess, The Magdalene, Tahirih and Bahiyyih Khanum.
In her poem “Grandmothers”, Shirin Sabri lives up to her own injunction in the final verse:
So, tell their stories, breathe upon history’s blood red ember
and light their lovely faces with that flame. We will remember.
I relished the opportunity to ask the poet some questions. Continue reading
Hussein Ahdieh and Hillary Chapman have just released an insightful and exciting new book titled The Calling: Tahirih of Persia and Her American Contemporaries. This dynamic duo was behind Awakening: A History of the Babi and Baha’i Faiths in Nayriz and have most recently worked together to produce a captivating history of women’s suffrage and the women’s rights movement in both Iran and the United States in the 1840’s. Dr. Dorothy Marcic of Columbia University has praised the book with these words:
Moving back and forth between the two struggles in such distant lands, the authors skillfully illustrate the common themes of what might otherwise seem as disparate social phenomenon. The book reads smoothly, and the reader wants to keep turning the page to find out what happens. How unusual is such writing in a work as thoroughly researched and referenced as The Calling. Writing such as this is not easy, and yet the authors make it appear as effortless as an autumn leaf blowing in a chilly wind.
Hussein graciously agreed to tell us more about his new book and the history it uncovers. Continue reading
I’m very excited to tell you about Companions of the Crimson Ark by Shirin Sabri. It’s the first in a new series of books for youth and junior youth and it includes stories of early believers from the time of Baha’u’llah. This book is an excellent way to learn about Baha’u’llah, His station, and the spiritual transformation He inspired in those around Him.
I think this book is arriving at the perfect time as we prepare ourselves for the bicentenary of Baha’u’llah’s Birth to be celebrated in October. Shirin was happy to chat and share with us a little about her latest publication and I hope you enjoy our conversation!
Baha’i Blog: To begin, could you please tell us a little about yourself and your work as a Baha’i writer? Continue reading