Essential Voices: Poetry of Iran and Its Diaspora

  • This program also available via live-stream and at the same link after the event.

Join us online for a remote-access Saturday afternoon (3:00 pm Pacific) reading with California poets/translators Armen Davoudian, Farnaz Fatemi, Gary Gach, Zara Houshmand, Persis Karim, Mojdeh Marashi, and Sholeh Wolpé, each contributors to the new anthology, Essential Voices: Poetry of Iran and Its Diaspora, edited by Christopher Nelson; introduced by Kaveh Bassiri (Green Linden Press, 2021).

Co-presented with the Center for Iranian Diaspora Studies and Diaspora Arts Connection.

The anthology Essential Voices: Poetry of Iran and Its Diaspora features 130 poets and translators from ten countries, including Garous Abdolmalekian, Kaveh Akbar, Kazim Ali, Reza Baraheni, Kaveh Bassiri, Simin Behbahani, Mark S. Burrows, Athena Farrokhzad, Forugh Farrokhzad, Persis Karim, Ahmad Karimi-Hakkak, Sara Khalili, Mimi Khalvati, Esmail Khoi, Abbas Kiarostami, Fayre Makeig, Anis Mojgani, Yadollah Royai, Amir Safi, SAID, H.E. Sayeh, Roger Sedarat, Sohrab Sepehri, Ahmad Shamlu, Solmaz Sharif, Niloufar Talebi, Jean Valentine, Stephen Watts, Sholeh Wolpé, Nima Yushij, and many others.

Purchase the 364-page book here. Image, detail from cover art [untitled] by Golnaz Fathi.

  • Essential Voices: Poetry of Iran and Its Diaspora offers a profoundly satisfying journey into the poetic canon of my homeland—an anthology with an ambition, expanse, depth, and diversity that truly earns its essential tag. So many poets I was hoping would be in here are here, from contemporary icons to new luminaries, plus I got to explore several poets I had never before read. Everyone from students of poetry to masters of the form should take this ride through the soul and psyche of Iran, which endures no matter where the border, beyond whatever the boundary!

    —Porochista Khakpour, author of Brown Album: Essays on Exile and Identity


Zara Houshmand is an Iranian American writer whose work bridges cultural divides and includes poetry, theatre, memoir, and literary translation. Her most recent book is Moon and Sun (2020), translations of Rumi’s rubaiyat. More here

Armen Davoudian is the author of Swan Song, which won the 2020 Frost Place Chapbook Competition. His poems and translations from Persian appear in AGNI, The Sewanee Review, The Yale Review, and elsewhere. He grew up in Isfahan, Iran and lives in California, where he is a PhD candidate in English at Stanford University.

Award-winning poet, artist, and literary translator Sholeh Wolpé was born in Iran and grew up in Trinidad and the U.K. before settling in the United States. She earned an MA in radio, television, and film from Northwestern University, as well as a master of health sciences degree from Johns Hopkins University. Wolpé is the author of the chapbook The Outsider (2018) and several collections of poetry.

Mojdeh Marashi is a designer, artist, writer, and translator. Mojdeh was born in Tehran, Iran and moved to San Francisco Bay Area in 1977. She now lives and works in Palo Alto, California where she works as the Managing Director at Blurred Whisper, an Idea and Design studio in Palo Alto, California, which Mojdeh co-founded in 2002. Mojdeh studied Art at California College of Arts (CCA) and later at San Francisco State University where she earned her Master of Arts in Interdisciplinary Arts and a second M.A. in Creative Writing.

Gary Gach is an American author, translator, editor, teacher and poet living on Russian Hill, San Francisco. His work has been translated into several languages, and has appeared in several anthologies and numerous periodicals. He serves on the International Advisory Panel of the Buddhist Channel, a Malaysian Buddhist news website. He currently hosts Haiku Corner for Tricycle: The Buddhist Review.

Farnaz Fatemi is a founding member of The Hive Poetry Collective, which produces podcasts and poetry-related events in Santa Cruz County. Her poems and lyric essays have recently appeared in Catamaran Literary Reader, Tahoma Literary Review, Crab Orchard Review, Tupelo Quarterly, SWWIM Daily, Grist Journal and several anthologies. Her book, Sister Tongue, won the 2021 Stan and Tom Wick Poetry Prize (selected by Tracy K. Smith) and is forthcoming in Fall 2022 from Kent State University Press.

Persis Karim is a poet, editor and professor of Comparative & World Literature at San Francisco State University. Her poetry has been published in Reed Magazine, The Raven's Perch, The New York Times, The Broken Spine and other publications. She is also the director of the Center for Iranian Diaspora Studies at San Francisco State University.

Gabrielle Daniels and Hung Q. Tu, a celebration of new works from Dogpark Collective

  • This program also available via live-stream and at the same link after the event.

Co-presented by The Poetry Center and Dogpark Collective

Join us in person (or via live-stream) at our friends' place in the Mission, Medicine for Nightmares, as we celebrate two new works from Oakland publisher Dogpark Collective, with readings by Gabrielle Daniels and Hung Q. Tu

  • Please note: proof of vaccination and mask are required in order to attend in person.

Gabrielle Daniels was born in New Orleans in 1954 and moved to California at the age of seven. Her grandmother, the late Rev. Ruth Matthews Taylor, was a Spiritualist Minister. Daniels’ essays, stories and poems have appeared in the print and online magazines Big Scream, Equinox: Writing for a New Culture, Kenyon Review, Love You Madly, Mango, Open Space, Poets Reading the News, Rigorous, San Jose Studies, Silver Birch Press, Sinister Wisdom, and Soup, and the anthologies This Bridge Called my Back: Writings by Radical Women of Color, edited by Cheríe Moraga and Gloria E. Anzaldúa, Sister Fire: Black Womanist Fiction and Poetry, edited by Charlotte Watson Sherman, Another Wilderness: New Outdoor Writing by Women, edited by Susan Fox Rogers, and Writers Who Love Too Much: New Narrative Writing 1977-1997, edited by Dodie Bellamy and Kevin Killian. Her reviews have appeared in the San Francisco Chronicle, American Book Review, Off Our Backs, and Women’s Book Review. Gabrielle’s book Something Else Again: Poetry and Prose, 1975-2019 has been published in its US edition by Dogpark Collective. Photo credit Ron Kuka.

Hung Q. Tu lives in San Diego, California. He is the author of Verisimilitude (Atelos) and Structures of Feeling (Krupskaya). The New Boma is out now from Dogpark Collective. And do check out Hung Q. Tu in Conversation with Caleb Beckwith, of Dogpark Collective, at Small Press Traffic's latest Traffic Report. 

  • Hung Q. Tu's poems push the mind into a nest of steel rods all hitting the surface of an unknown shape at the same moment: political and quotidian, in language demotic and arcane they acutely render the beauty of scorn.
    —Tom Raworth, on Structures of Feeling

Note: Maryam Gunja, also previously scheduled for this event, is unable to attend. 

Visit Dogpark Collective

New Voice Series, featuring Dan Lau, with Edward Gunawan, and Carlos Osoria

With emcee, Carlos Quinteros III

  • Video live-streamed to our YouTube channel. Media captioning available there after the event.
  • "...gut me and make me new..."
    —Dan Lau, from "Molt"

The Poetry Center is delighted to announce the New Voice Series, initiated in Spring 2021 as an annual reading series that will pair a poet alum of SF State, a current SF State graduate student poet in Creative Writing, and a current undergraduate student poet at SF State (any major), to each, read their work and engage in conversation. For the premiere event, poet Dan Lau has been invited to appear along with student poets Edward Gunawan and Carlos Osoria. Please join us!

Dan Lau. A Kundiman, William Dickey, and Kustra fellow, Dan Lau has received grants and awards from the GAPA Foundation, APICC, Queer Cultural Center, Browning Society of San Francisco, and the Fine Arts Work Center in Provincetown. He has accepted residencies at Caldera, Show Us Your Spines: A Radar Archives Residency, Willapa Bay AiR, and a Blue Mountain Center. He holds a B.A. from CUNY: Hunter College; an M.A. from San Francisco State University where he was the 2012 San Francisco State University Creative Writing Department Distinguished MA Graduate Honoree, and an M.F.A. in Poetry from Boise State University. Since 2012, Lau has worked at different capacities in grassroots fundraising. Currently, he serves his community as the Managing Poetry Editor at the award-winning Bay area-based literary journal, Foglifter, and as the Development Director at Kundiman, a national non-profit organization dedicated to nurturing generations of writers and readers of Asian American literature.

Edward Gunawan. A queer immigrant from Indonesia and of Chinese heritage, Edward Gunawan is a writer and interdisciplinary storyteller whose essay has been published in an Asian LGBTQ anthology Intimate Strangers (Signal 8 Press) and films have been screened in international film festivals such as Berlin, Locarno, and Clermont-Ferrand. He is also the creator of the award-winning webcomic Press Play, which was published as a chapbook by Sweet Lit in 2020. Now based in Oakland, he is pursuing his MFA in Creative Writing at San Francisco State University, with the support of the Marcus Recruitment Award. Visit addword.com to learn more.

Carlos Osoria is a trans, Indigenous feminist activist. Their pronouns are she/her/they/them. Much of their fieldwork and research is centered around sex, gender, sexuality, and Ethnic studies; however, literary studies aren’t far from their scope either, as they also research lost queer and trans representations within the literature. They have written for The Ana a quarterly arts magazine. Currently, they are on a path to receive their BA in Comparative and World Literature and American Indian Studies with a minor in Queer Ethnic Studies. Community building, gossiping, and buying unneeded books are their favorite pastimes.

Event contact: 

The Poetry Center

Event email: 


Event sponsor: 

The Poetry Center, New Voice Series

Youmna Chlala and Ken Chen, reading and in conversation


Watch the unedited video at YouTube before the finished program gets posted at Poetry Center Digital Archive

With emcee, Brent Awa Jensen

Supported by the National Endowment for the Arts

This remote-access event starts promptly at 7:00 pm Pacific Time and is free and open to the public. Media Captioning provided after the event, at our YouTube channel, and at Poetry Center Digital Archive. For other reasonable accommodations please contact poetry@sfsu.edu

The Poetry Center is delighted to welcome poets Youmna Chlala and Ken Chen, appearing from Brooklyn, New York. They will be reading from their work, then talking with each other, joined by emcee Brent Awa Jensen, and with questions from the audience.

  • First, we had to learn each other’s languages.
    This was the longest, most loving trial.
    Then we undid our own.
    —Youmna Chlala, from The Paper Camera
  • "This is a 'camera' work where the film keeps moving along people who're running from city to city, continent to continent, directed by "a young girl / [who] sticks her tongue / out at a gun." Covering, and uncovering Lebanon, she extracts remarkable poetry from a continuously exploding war."—Etel Adnan

Youmna Chlala is an artist and writer born in Beirut and based in New York. She is the author of the poetry collection, The Paper Camera (Litmus Press, 2019), with writing appearing in BOMB, Guernica, Prairie Schooner, Bespoke, Aster(ix), CURA, and MIT Journal for Middle Eastern Studies. As an artist, she has exhibited at the Hayward Gallery, The Drawing Center, Rotterdam International Film Festival, Dubai Art Projects, Hessel Museum of Art and MAK Center for Art and Architecture, and participated in the 33rd Bienal de São Paulo, 7th LIAF Biennial in Norway, and 11th Performa Biennial. She is co-editing a new series for Coffee House Press entitled Spatial Species and is a Professor in the Humanities & Media Studies and Writing Departments at the Pratt Institute.

  • If all the dead exist in the underworld, does the underworld occur outside of time, what does that mean for your father, through what magic will you locate your father who has only just arrived, has always only just departed, only just deported, did you don a suit and loiter on the highway your hands gripping a giant gilt-framed photograph of him and what questions did you interview at all who passed those vampires and angels you encountered, can you state for the record the moan you heard the ghosts emit across the nation-state,,, wuaahh buu,,, ...
    —Ken Chen, from "Locate"

Ken Chen was a 2019–2020 Cullman Fellow at the New York Public Library, where he worked on his next book Death Star. The book follows his journey to the underworld to rescue his father and his encounters there with those destroyed by colonialism. He was the 2009 winner of the Yale Series of Younger Poets Award for his book Juvenilia, selected by Louise Glück. Chen served as the Executive Director of the Asian American Writers’ Workshop from 2008 to 2019 and co-founded the cultural website Arts & Letters Daily and CultureStrike, a national arts organization dedicated to migrant justice. A graduate of Yale Law School, he successfully defended the asylum application of an undocumented Muslim high school student from Guinea detained by Homeland Security.



"Igniting the Relational: Youmna Chlala Interviewed by Mónica de la Torre," at BOMB, Jan 21, 2021

Ken Chen, Writing hallucinogenic hermetica about colonialism