“Only My Words Bear Me”: Poetic Voices of the Muslim World in St. Louis

No land on earth bears me. Only my words bear me, a bird born from me who builds a nest in my ruins before me, and in the rubble of the enchanting world around me

--Mahmoud Darwish, "A Rhyme for the Odes"

translated from the Arabic by Amira El-Zein

Quraeshi artwork 2

The St. Louis Public Library is proud to have been selected as one of four public libraries in the country to host Poetic Voices of the Muslim World in 2015. This vibrant exhibition, which displays in the Entertainment, Literature, and Biography Room at Central Library from April 27 to June 30, features captivating photography and calligraphic masterworks, as well as the work of poets ranging from Rumi to the well-known contemporary poet Adonis. Alongside the exhibit, the Library will be presenting a series of programs and performances that celebrate the rich traditions of the written and spoken word in the Islamic world. In addition, branch libraries throughout the system will be hosting supporting programs, from a documentary about heroic librarians in the Bosnian War to the comedy concert film “Allah Made Me Funny.” Pick up a brochure at your neighborhood branch for the full schedule of events. We hope to see you at one of these wonderful programs!

Poetic Voices of the Muslim World is presented by Poets House and City Lore, in partnership with the American Library Association and the St. Louis Public Library along with the public libraries in Atlanta, San Francisco, and Houston. It is funded by the Bridging Cultures Program of the National Endowment for the Humanities, with additional support from the Doris Duke Foundation for Islamic Art.


 A Song of the Reed: Rumi with Dr. Jawid Mojaddedi

Wednesday April 29, 6:30 pm Central Auditorium (reception at 5:30)

In this talk, scholar and translator Jawid Mojaddedi discusses the beauty of Rumi’s Masnavi: its folk tales, sacred history, entertaining stories and lessons, all written in rhyming couplets. This talk is followed by a performance of the poems set to music (in English and Persian) by distinguished composer and Persian classical performer Amir Vahab with his ensemble.


The History and Poetics of the Qur'an with Dr. Bruce Lawrence and Qur'anic Chanters

Wednesday May 6, 7:00 pm Carpenter Branch Library Auditorium

In this seminar, distinguished scholar Bruce Lawrence gives an overview of the structure of Islam’s holiest book and introduces the subtleties of the text through a close reading of several different English translations. This lecture is followed by a recitation of Qur’anic verses by a reciter from a local mosque.

Farzaneh Milani

Veils and Words: Iranian Women Poets of the 20th Century with Dr. Farzaneh Milani

Thursday, May 14 7:00 pm, Schlafly Branch Library Auditorium

Professor of Persian Literature, author, and translator Dr. Farzaneh Milani explores the work of Iran’s three great women poets of the 20th century--classical poet Parvin E'tesami (1907-1941), iconoclastic modernist Forugh Farrokhzad (1935-1967), and the “Lioness of Iran” Simin Behbahani (1927-2014). She also demonstrates how Iranian women have emerged as a moderating, modernizing force at the forefront of the renegotiation of boundaries in their homelands.

Sylviane Diouf

Islam and the Blues with Dr. Sylviane Diouf 

Wednesday, May 20 6:30 pm, Central Library Auditorium

Through images and recordings, award-winning historian Sylviane A. Diouf of The New York Public Library's Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture illustrates how the blues, which originated in the American South, may have evolved from the techniques of the recitation of the Qur'an and the call to prayer in West Africa. She plays early blues recordings side by side with African recordings of the call to prayer and invites audiences to catch the similarities.

Additional Resources

Poets House: http://www.poetshouse.org

City Lore: http://citylore.org

Oxford Islamic Studies Online (available under Online Learning & Reference tab at https://www.slpl.org)

Muslim Heritage http://www.muslimheritage.com/

Rumi (works, bio, interpretation) http://www.rumi.org.uk

Poetry International Rotterdam (search by language & country): http://www.poetryinternationalweb.net/

Al-Mutanabbi Street Starts Here (Jaffe Center for Book Arts): http://www.library.fau.edu/depts/spc/JaffeCenter/collection/al-mutanabbi/

The Library of Arabic Literature http://www.libraryofarabicliterature.org/

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