Featured Writer Mohammad Ali Maleki: Biographical Note (curated by Zalehah Turner)

Flowers from Mohammad Ali Maleki’s garden on the fence of the Manus Island detention centre
Mohammad Ali Maleki with a rainbow lorikeet

Mohammad Ali Maleki is an Iranian poet and avid gardener living in detention on Manus Island whose poem, ‘The Strong Sunflower’ was published in Verity La’s Discoursing Diaspora project. His poems have been translated from Farsi by Mansoor Shoushtari and edited by Michelle Seminara and Melita Luck. His poems question the justice and cruelty of a world in which countries are devastated by war and any hope of asylum, for those that survive the journey, is cruelly taken on, or before, arrival. Mohammad Ali Maleki’s poems are emotive tales of life in detention which often employ plants as metaphors. Mohammad Ali Maleki enjoys gardening and has planted a beautiful garden behind his room on Manus Island. A remarkable sign of endurance despite the odds.

Mohammad Ali Maleki’s garden, behind his room on Manus Island

Michele Seminara on ‘The Strong Sunflower’ and the origins of Discoursing Diaspora on Verity La

In terms of “the origins of Discoursing Diaspora, it was always my intention to set up some sort of ‘project’ on Verity La, encouraging the publication of writing from refugees and migrants. (I rather ambitiously announced this in my first post as editor of the journal, under the banner ‘Writing from Exile’: http://verityla.com/behind-the-scenes-at-verity-la/). Initially, the plan was to get poet and social activist, Janet Gailbraith to run the project. She was interested, but for one reason or another (mostly our combined busyness!) it never really got off the ground.

Then, at the beginning of this year, I was contacted via Facebook by Mohammad, asking me to help edit his poetry. When I saw how important the ability to express himself and be heard by the Australian people was, it reignited my determination to get the project going. I was fortunate to have co-editor Ramon Loyola step in to assist me. This was important, since I’ve never personally experienced diaspora. So, it wasn’t something I wanted to run by myself; that just didn’t feel appropriate. Mohammad’s poem ‘The Strong Sunflower’ was the first to be published on the project. So yes, his contacting me was an absolutely fundamental part of making it happen! I feel he’s a very determined, strong, wise, and humble man, and I’m so glad his poems are gaining a wider audience,”- Michele Seminara

‘Untitled’, photomontage by Mohammad Ali Maleki

Featured Writers Part 1: Mohammad Ali Maleki- Curated by Zalehah Turner
‘Hope’, ‘The Golden Wheat’, ‘Dry Land’ and ‘The Strong Sunflower’ by Mohammad Ali Maleki


Zalehah Turner is a Sydney based critic, writer and poet currently completing her Bachelor of Arts in Communications majoring in writing and cultural studies at the University of Technology, Sydney. Zalehah is an Associate Editor of Rochford Street Review: https://rochfordstreetreview.com/2016/02/09/welcome-zalehah-turner-rochford-street-review-associate-editor

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