“my poem is a message to let people know what [a] terrible situation we are in”: Mohammad Ali Maleki talks to Zalehah Turner about ‘Silence Land’ from Manus Island

Silence Land

I have doubts about my sanity:
not everyone can bear this much.
They stole all my feelings;
there’s no wisdom left in my mind.
I am just a walking dead man.
I am just a walking dead man.

I yelled for help so many times –
No one on this earth took my hand.
Now I see many mad things and imagine
how the world would look if it collapsed.

Perhaps it would be good for everything to return to the past;
for nothing to be seen on the earth or in the sky.
It would feel so good to be a child
again and go back to my mother’s womb.
For there to be no sign of me,
for me never to have gone crazy in this place.

What if the woollen jacket I am wearing unravels
and begins to fall apart?
Or the butterfly flies back to its cocoon,
or the autumn leaf grows green and returns
to its branch on that old tree?
What if the tree becomes a seed in the soil –
I sound crazy speaking this way!

It’s the outcome of being detained for four years
after seeking asylum on the sea.

What if that sea returned to its source
and flowed back to the river mouth?
If that river receded back up into its spring?
What if only the sun and the moon remained in the sky?
If I saw even the sun’s birth reversed,
watched it dissipate into space?
Witnessed the moon implode upon itself?

All things returning to their starting place…

How beautiful, to live in a colourless world,
everywhere silent and still.
The earth would be calm for a moment,
free of even one miscreant.

But what do you make of my vision –
am I sane or mad?

 

-Mohammad Ali Maleki
trans. Monsoor Shostari
ed. Michelle Seminara

 

‘Silence Land’ was first published in Bluepepper. It has been republished with permission by the author, Mohammad Ali Maleki.

‘Silence Land’ by Mohammad Ali Maleki was read to an audience at the Queensland Poetry Festival 2017 as part of a series of events from Writing Through Fences organised by Janet Galbraith. Mohammad could not be present at the event as he is currently living in detention on Manus Island. He discussed the poem and his life on Manus Island with Zalehah Turner.

 

Zalehah: Mohammad, I just saw the video of a person reading your poem, ‘Silence Land’ at the Queensland Poetry Festival. It is a wonderfully moving and powerful poem.

Mohammad: Thank you my dear. You always supported me.

Zalehah: Mohammad, did you write ‘Silence Land’ as part of the writing group with Janet Galbraith?

Mohammad: No, Michelle [Seminara] first edited [it] and then, [Justin Lowe] from Bluepepper published it. Then, Janet [Galbraith] sent that for the festival in Queensland.

Zalehah: What can you tell me about the poem, ‘Silence Land’?

Mohammad: Man does not get crazy at once. It depends on the situation we are in. A news makes people crazy at once. Or a sudden incident.

Mansoor: Mohammad says it. The situation makes people crazy.

Zalehah: Yes, I can see that motif in ‘Silence Land’. Can you tell me about the situation now?

Mohammad: I’m not in a good mental and spiritual condition. I take 10 pills a day and see nightmares at night.

Mansoor: Mohammad says if you saw freedom say ‘hi’ to it.

Zalehah: I’m sorry to hear that Mohammad. Where are you? Why are you still in on Manus Island?

Mohammad: Unfortunately, yes. I am still imprisoned on Manus hell.

Zalehah: I’m sorry to hear that. I heard that they were closing the camps down.

Mohammad: YES, but the government is trying to send us among local people with their machetes ready to kill us. If people of Australia want, they can free us in a week.

Zalehah: Can you tell me about writing poetry? Does it help you to write down your thoughts? Does it help to have an audience who wants to read them here in Australia?

Mohammad: But they just say, ‘sorry’. We got destroyed. Four years [of] torturing. I lost my… mind…When I got free, maybe.

Zalehah: Tell me about writing poetry.

Mansoor: I only help Mohammed for translating. We are in a very bad condition of mind. Lost memory.

Zalehah: Where on Manus Island do you write poetry, Mohammad?

Mohammad: We write our pains on paper and whatever we write we get worse. Because no country in the world did not treat us the way that Australia did. We came here to ask for help not to torture us. In my room. I write my poems. I am always in my room.

Zalehah: Does writing help even in a small way? Does it help to write down the things that are happening to you?

Mohammad: It doesn’t change anything. [I] wish I could not… understand what is going on here. I am suffering because I understand it. I can’t describe the situation by words.

Zalehah: Can you tell me about the things that have happened to you?

Mohammad: Unfortunately, I forgot things very soon. But there was murder, beating and many other bad things here. Murder of 4 people at least. Reza Brati, Hamid Khazaei, one Pakistani, one Sudani [Sundanese person]. They send no one to Australia for medical treatment until he dies here. Hamid Khazaei died that way.

Zalehah: The situation is incredibly ugly. However, your poetry has changed some things: people in Australia have read your poems and understand many things they would not have if you hadn’t written those poems. It draws attention to these issues.

Mohammad: We can’t focus on something.

Zalehah: Who can’t? What do you want to focus on?

Mohammad: I mean we have lost our minds… It’s really terrible.

Zalehah: I’m sure it is. What do you think of the video of your poem?

Mohammad: People have to change the government if they want to stop the torture we are suffering from. [I] hope my poem is a message to let people know what terrible situation we are in. Just ask Janet Galbraith and Marilyn Beach.

Zalehah: It is a message. A very strong message. It has moved many people. Keep writing, Mohammad. People need to hear your poems.

Mohammad: Thank you. My phone is losing its battery. I need to charge it now.

Zalehah: Having your poem on the internet will help more people understand your situation. I will let you go then. Good bye. Thank-you and thank Monsoor, as well

Mohammad: Thank you.

 

Partial transcript of an interview with Mohammad Ali Maleki and his translator, Monsoor Shostari, conducted by Zalehah Turner, Associate Editor of Rochford Street Review on 28 August 2017.

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MAM RSRMohammad Ali Maleki is an Iranian poet and avid gardener living in detention on Manus Island whose poem, ‘Tears of Stone’ was shortlisted and received a special commendation for the New Shoots Poetry Prize 2016. Mohammad Ali Maleki was a featured writer in issue 20 of Rochford Street Review in 2016. His poem ‘The Strong Sunflower’ was originally published in Verity La’s Discoursing Diaspora project. His poems have since appeared in Bluepepper. ‘Silence Land’ was performed in his absence at the Queensland Poetry Festival 2017. Mohammad Ali Maleki’s poems are translated from Farsi by Mansoor Shoushtari and edited by Michele Seminara and Melita Luck.

 

Zalehah Turner is a Sydney based critic, writer and poet currently undertaking Honours in Communications (Creative Writing) at the University of Technology, Sydney. Zalehah is an Associate Editor of Rochford Street Review and holds a Bachelor of Arts in Communications majoring in writing and cultural studies.

New Shoots Poetry Prize 2016 Special Commendation: ‘Tears of Stone’ by Mohammad Ali Maleki

‘Tears of Stone’ by Mohammad Ali Maleki was shortlisted for the New Shoots Poetry Prize 2016 and received Special Commendation for extraordinary work in extreme circumstances. Mohammad Ali Maleki currently lives in detention on Manus Island.

“You can find my whole life in my poems like a letter to God.”- Mohammad Ali Maleki

Tears of Stone

The land of this island
is a hot, dry desert.
The colour of its soil
is yellow and red.
The waves of its sea
croon a soothing song.

The ocean shimmers
like a rainbow.
The birds of its jungle
sing gaily.
The colours of its parrots
are renowned around the world.

They brought me here forcibly.
I came to this land with no choice.
It doesn’t have rich soil –
They threw sulphur
so no flowers grow at all.
It’s true I am a stranger;
I have no one here.
I can’t trust anyone
with my heartfelt words.
That’s why I created my garden.
They laughed, saying, that’s impossible,
because of the dry, sulphured soil.
But a single, beautiful tree grew in my sight.
A faraway old, old tree…
Its bark was rotten
but it grew in good earth –
They threw no sulphur there.

I filled buckets with this soil,
pouring it onto my sad patch of land.
I did this for many days;
I felt helpless, doing it on my own.

There was a big stone
on my dry land.
I tried, but couldn’t dig it out.
I left it, finally, where it was.
When I threw soil there

I would push it with my hands,
smoothing it around the stone
until the ground grew level
and ready for seeds.

I asked many people
for seeds to plant in my garden.
They said, we can’t afford that!
You are a prisoner here,
we can’t give you seeds.
I had no hope.

A week passed…
While tending my garden
I saw that a bud had sprouted beside the stone –
I was so happy I kissed the bud!

But my bud was weak,
in need of water.
I asked, what should I do, God?
Here the water is salty,
it will hurt my bud.
I had no sweet water to give it.

God didn’t love me enough
to rain on my garden.
So I spoke to the bud
and told it not to get hopeless.
Days later, when the bud was exhausted
an idea came into my mind.
I sat by the bud’s side
recounting my bad memories
and weeping down onto its soil.
It was my task, every day,
weeping onto the bud.
It used to drink my tears –
We both had no choice.

One night, I went to cry for my bud.
I tried so hard but couldn’t weep.
The stone was my witness!
I wanted to give tears to the

bud but my eyes were dry.
What should I do now?
I was angry with myself
for having no tears
left to give to my garden.
I was disappointed in my eyes.

Suddenly, I heard a sound.
I didn’t know what it was.
I searched the whole garden
and saw nothing there…
but when I went to my garden in the morning
I saw water everywhere!
I looked at the sky –
there was no sign of rain
and all the other earth was dry.
Then I saw that the big stone in my garden
had a cleft right through its heart.
From the hard centre of the stone
a stream of water ran out.
From the source of this stone
my garden was flooded and fed.

My bud became cheerful
and turned into a flower.
After a few months, even a rose grew!

My dear, sweet stone,
I will love you forever.
I wish many people
could learn from you.
I wish they could learn
as you did
how to soften
their hard hearts.

-Mohammad Ali Maleki

translated from Farsi by Mansoor Shoushtari
edited by Michelle Seminara

mohammad-ali-maleki-in-his-garden-on-manus-island

Mohammad Ali Maleki in his garden on Manus Island

Mohammad Ali Maleki is an Iranian poet and avid gardener living in detention on Manus Island whose poem, ‘Tears of Stone’ was shortlisted for the New Shoots Poetry Prize 2016. Mohammad Ali Maleki is the featured writer in current issue of Rochford Street Review. His poem, ‘The Strong Sunflower’ was originally published in Verity La’s Discoursing Diaspora project. Mohammad Ali Maleki’s poems are translated from Farsi by Mansoor Shoushtari and edited by Michelle Seminara and Melita Luck. Mohammad Ali Maleki’s poems are emotive tales of life in detention which often employ plants as metaphors. He also enjoys gardening and has planted a beautiful garden behind his room on Manus Island.

Featured Writers Part 1: Mohammad Ali Maleki- Curated by Zalehah Turner
Mohammad Ali Maleki: Biographical Note

 

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

Mohammad Ali Maleki and Mansoor Shoushtari both live in detention on Manus Island. Donate this Christmas for a better future for the refugees currently living in detention.

Refugee Action Coalition (RAC):

You can donate to RAC by:
sending a cheque made out to Refugee Action Coalition to PO Box 433, Newtown NSW 2042 or
making a direct deposit to BSB: 062018 Account Number: 10118562, Account name: RAC, bank: Commonwealth Bank

Asylum Seeker Resource Centre (ASRC)

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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

New Shoots Poetry Prizes: the winners and highly commended

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CONGRATULATIONS to the winning and highly commended poets in New Shoots Poetry Prizes!

Rochford Street Review, The Red Room Company and the Royal Botanic Garden, Sydney are proud to announce and congratulate the winning and highly commended poets for the New Shoots Poetry Prizes. Congratulations to New Shoots Poetry Prize 2016 winner, Stuart Cooke for ‘Fallen Myrtle Trunk’ and Magdalena Ball for the highly commended, ‘Anneslea fragrans’. Congratulations also go to the New Shoots Royal Botanic Garden, Sydney Poetry Prize 2016 winner, John Karl Stokes for ‘Leaving Wilona’ and John Bennett for the highly commended, ‘our primitive lives’.

The four, award winning, plant inspired poems were published today, 1 December in the current issue 20, of Rochford Street Review and on The Red Room Company website. Interviews with the poets discussing their poems will be posted in the next few weeks.

Congratulations also go to one of poets shortlisted for the New Shoots Poetry Prize 2016, Mohammad Ali Maleki, whose poem, ‘Tears of Stone’ has been given, special commendation for extraordinary work in extreme circumstances and published in Rochford Street Review.

The prizes are a joint initiative of The Red Room Company, Rochford Street Review and the Royal Botanic Garden, Sydney with the selection panel comprising of the Director of The Red Room Company, Tamryn Bennett and Associate Editor of Rochford Street Review, Zalehah Turner.

The New Shoots Poetry Prizes offered eco warriors to plant loving poets the chance to create poems around The Red Room Company’s plant inspired poetry project for 2016, New Shoots. All submissions will be included in an e-book anthology (forthcoming).

John Stokes, the winner of the New Shoots Royal, Botanic Garden, Sydney Poetry Prize 2016, wished to pass on his “thanks to the organisers and the judges; with a special thanks to [his] fellow writers for making this such a rich and interesting exercise.”

New Shoots Poetry Prize 2016
Winner: 
Stuart Cooke – ‘Fallen Myrtle Trunk
Highly Commended: Magdalena Ball – ‘Anneslea fragrans
*Special Commendation: Mohammad Ali Maleki – ‘Tears of Stone

New Shoots Royal Botanic Garden, Sydney Poetry Prize 2016
Winner:
John Karl Stokes – ‘Leaving Wilona
Highly Commended: John Bennett – ‘our primitive lives

New Shoots Poetry Prize 2016

Winner:Fallen Myrtle Trunk’ by Stuart Cooke

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Stuart Cooke

Stuart Cooke lives on the Gold Coast, where he lectures in creative writing and literary studies at Griffith University. He has published collections of poetry, criticism and translation. His latest book, Opera was published by Five Islands Press in 2016. Stuart Cooke is the winner of the 2016 Gwen Harwood Poetry Prize.

 

 

Highly Commended: Anneslea fragrans’ by Magdalena Ball

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Magdalena Ball

Magdalena Ball is a novelist, poet, reviewer, interviewer, and the editor of Compulsive Reader. She has been widely published in literary journals, anthologies, and is the author of several books of poetry and fiction. Her most recent work includes, the novel, Black Cow (Bewrite Books), and the collection of poetry, Unmaking Atoms (forthcoming, Ginninderra Press).

 

 

 

*Special Commendation:Tears of Stone‘ by Mohammad Ali Maleki

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Mohammad Ali Maleki

Mohammad Ali Maleki is an Iranian poet and avid gardener living in detention on Manus Island whose poem, ‘Tears of Stone’ was shortlisted for the New Shoots Poetry Prize 2016. Mohammad Ali Maleki is the featured writer in current issue of Rochford Street Review. His poem, ‘The Strong Sunflower’ was originally published in Verity La’s Discoursing Diaspora project. Mohammad Ali Maleki’s poems are translated from Farsi by Mansoor Shoushtari and edited by Michelle Seminara and Melita Luck. Mohammad Ali Maleki’s poems are emotive tales of life in detention which often employ plants as metaphors. He also enjoys gardening and has planted a beautiful garden behind his room on Manus Island.

 

 

New Shoots Royal Botanic Garden, Sydney Poetry Prize 2016

Winner: Leaving Wilnoa’ by John Stokes

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John Stokes

John Stokes is renowned internationally for his passionate campaign for plain-speaking in literature. He has won, been short-listed, or long-listed for many prizes including, longlisted for both the University of Canberra Vice-Chancellor’s and Montreal International Poetry Prizes in 2014 and 2015, respectively. His third book, Fire in the Afternoon was published in the Poets and Perspectives series by Halstead Press in 2014 and won the ATC Writing and Publishing Awards 2015 for best poetry book of the year.

 

N.B. The judges of the New Shoots Poetry Prizes were unaware that ‘Leaving Wilona’ by John Karl Stokes was previously published in ‘Fire in the Afternoon’ (Halstead Press, 2014) at the time of the selection and announcement.

Highly Commended:our primitive lives’ by John Bennett

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John Bennett

John Bennett has won the Mattara (now Newcastle) Prize and the David Tribe Prize and is represented in Puncher and Wattmann’s Contemporary Australian Anthology. A documentary on his work was broadcast by ABC Radio National’s Earshot in February 2016. His PhD updates a Defence of Poetry and he now melds poetry and image with Photovoltaic poetry.

 

 

*Special Commendation was an award that was created after the New Shoots Poetry Prizes submission guidelines were written

Selection panel: Dr Tamryn Bennet, Artistic Director of The Red Room Company and Zalehah Turner, Associate Editor of Rochford Street Review

Plant a seed of inspiration in your mind’s eye and let it grow into a poem.

Submissions to New Shoots Poetry Prizes have closed but the New Shoots online submission form remains open for plant-inspired poems. Poems submitted will be published on the Royal Botanic Garden, Sydney website in 2017.

The winning and highly commended poems from the New Shoots Poetry Prizes can also be found on The Red Room Company‘s website.

-Zalehah Turner

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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

‘Hope’, ‘The Golden Wheat’, ‘Dry Land’ and ‘The Strong Sunflower’ by Mohammad Ali Maleki

Hope

There was a seed,
fresh and beautiful –
it knew nothing
of the outside world.
This beautiful seed
was stuck between
two walls in a village.
The sun and the moon,
the rain, the white snow
and the blue sky were unknown to it.
Because this seed was living
in darkness.

Still, it had a good feeling
about the outside world.
It continued to say,
Behind this wall
there is something better.
Its heart beat
with each passing day,
beating faster and faster,
yearning to see the outside
until it couldn’t take it anymore!

Its heart cracked,
grew a stem
and then a bud.
Its pretty stem
punched the wall
and, shaking with fear,
it poked its head out into the sun.

Afraid at first
it shrunk back into the wall,
not even knowing
it had seen the light.
But soon it got restless
and returned, longingly, to look at the sky.
The sky rained on the bud
making it clean and cold,
then the sun warmed its body
and the bud inspired itself to keep growing
until it burst into a beautiful flower.

No one had ever seen such a flower!
But between the two walls,
standing steady,
the flower just said –
We can carry on,
in any circumstances.
All we need is patience.

-Mohammad Ali Maleki

Translated from Farsi by Mansoor Shoushtari
Edited by Michele Seminara

The Golden Wheat

I am a beautiful golden seed
I am wheat
Once I was out of sight
From humans and the sun
No one planted me to grow
And I would have died alone
Me, who with the sun’s help
Could be thousands

But birds saw me among the grass
And zoomed in to peck me
I fell from a beak and hid beneath the earth
The sun saw this and shone
Where I lay concealed
Waiting for the rain
This fell too heavily for me
But the sun knew
Warming me again under that wet soil
Until I sprouted happily
And grew up into overjoyed sunlight
My body as golden as the sun

Day and night I was nurtured
By moon and sun until
I revealed myself to be
Yellow harvest in summer

Winds blew my seeds many miles
Making the deserts green and golden
All from me

I may have died, useless, before I slipped
Into that soil
Sun and moon saved me
Knowing I would remain on Earth
Many centuries to come

Since then other creatures
Have thrived upon me
Learning my many uses
Knowing the ways of the sun
All friends, we stay alive
Wind, moon, sun, rain, wheat and humans

If this chain gets broken
There will be no order left on earth
No sun by day
No moon by night

Chaos

-Mohammed Ali Maleki

Translated from Farsi by Mansoor Shoushtari
Edited by Melita Luck

mohammad-ali-maleki-dry-land
Dry Land

Behind my room I had a piece of land
that stayed forever in my mind –
not knowing how to use it,
I thought arid land was no good.

Then spring came
bringing new purpose
and I planted some tiny seeds.
A stem grew up and multiplied;
buds followed.
In that dry place I’d made a garden
where flowers blossomed and covered
the cracked earth.

I loved my little garden.
Smelling so sweetly, it attracted guests:
dragon flies, butterflies and a sparrow
all came dancing through
until I felt I was dreaming of a garden
that had come to life…

Then the sparrow left.
Months passed and the garden
grew depressed. I did too.

But the sparrow returned with more of its kind,
singing to my garden, making it happy.
That sparrow had found its mother,
just as I had found Mother Earth.

But I have forgotten to tell you
where this garden actually is.
It is far away, on Manus Island.
And you know well
what a menace Manus is.
And how during three years of incarceration
we have suffered here.
For what crime?

I hope you never see this place,
nor your child feel any pain,
even from the thorn of a beautiful flower;
that would make you so sad,
the pain of your precious child.

God knows we are just human
and that we have beloved families.
Are your children neatly dressed?
Are ours dirty?
No. We too are simply human,
like you.
For God’s sake realise this:
it is in God’s eyes
that we are all equal

-Mohammad Ali Maleki

Translated from Farsi by Mansoor Shoushtari
Edited by Michele Seminara and Melita Luck

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The Strong Sunflower[1]

Manus Island knew nothing of sunflowers
so I planted some seeds, from my heart, on Manus.
These seeds from a refugee, me,
grew into a flower for the Manus people
and the heat of the sun created new hope in their hearts.
I planted this happiness into the heart of the soil,
I willingly left it as a souvenir-
now in my name I bequeath it
to all who may come.

You, sunflower, are a stranger, like me, on Manus;
I hope you will not be cursed here.
Friends help me stay sane in this land;
I hope your friends, the sun and the rain, will help you.
Sunflower, my people have been disrespected
but I’m happy this island is kind to you,
my sunflower friends
on Manus.

-Mohammad Ali Maleki

Translated from Farsi by Mansoor Shoushtari
Edited by Michele Seminara

[1] ‘The Strong Sunflower’ was first published by Verity La in Discoursing Diaspora on 21 May, 2016. It has been reprinted with permission from the author, Mohammad Ali Maleki and Verity La editor, Michele Seminara.
The Strong Sunflower’ in ‘Discoursing Diaspora’, Verity La, 2016

mohammad-ali-maleki-in-his-garden-on-manus-island

Mohammad Ali Maleki in his garden on Manus Island

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.

Featured Writers Part 1: Mohammad Ali Maleki- Curated by Zalehah Turner
Mohammad Ali Maleki: Biographical Note
_________________________________________________________________

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

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

 

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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.

 

 

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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

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‘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
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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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