Featured Poet : Julia Older, Hancock
Julia Older's 25 books include ten poetry collections. Among them are the booklength poem HERMAPHRODITUS IN AMERICA and a verse play broadcast over 60 public radio stations. She has three books out this year: TAHIRIH UNVEILED and TALES OF THE FRANÇOIS VASE (Turning Point Poetry Series, Spring/Fall 2007) and THIS DESIRED PLACE, the second novel of an Isles of Shoals Trilogy. Her first novel, THE ISLAND QUEEN, is about New Hampshire writer Celia Thaxter; Older also edited Thaxter's SELECTED WRITINGS.
In addition to Pushcart Prize nominations in prose and poetry, her awards include the Daniel Varoujan Prize, Hopwood Poetry Award, and recent grants from the Puffin Foundation and Barbara Deming Memorial Fund.
Older received a scholarship to the Iowa Poetry Workshop and has studied/ worked in France, Italy, Mexico and Brazil; she translated French author Boris Vian and is translating Persian ghazals. Her writing has appeared in numerous publications, including The New Yorker, Connecticut Review, SISTERS OF THE EARTH and Poets & Writers (an interview with Lawrence Ferlinghetti, Spring 2007). Since being invited to Yaddo and The MacDowell Colony in the early 1970s, Older has been a full-time writer in southern New Hampshire.
Older tells the backstory of her Tahirih Poems
My TAHIRIH UNVEILED sequence illuminates the life of poet Tahirih of Persia (c1818-1854). A child prodigy (and bride) Tahirih prophesyed the coming of the Prophet Bab. Although Babi (Baha'i) routinely were tortured and executed, Tahirih fled 800 miles across the desert to teach unveiled at Karbala and Baghdad. "Kill me if you like," she cried when captured, "but you can't stop the emancipation of women!"
Tahirih has carried me on quite a journey. For a collaboration project, fabric artist Rachel Lehr took my poem "First Veil" to her Afghan handwork collective and it returned exquisitely embroidered in silver and gold. Two years later the adventure came full circle when Rachel landed on my doorstep. "Hafiza asked to meet you,' she said, introducing a dark-haired stranger, "and wondered if you'd show her the veil she embroidered." So here in my living room this Afghan sister recited by heart the poem she had embroidered during bombings in Kabul.
The final Tahirih poem, "Book Burning" was published in Entelechy International, 2003. That year Congress renewed The Patriot Act allowing Feds to confiscate library-book-user data—and America invaded Iraq. TAHIRIH UNVEILED is dedicated to Iraqi Diplomat Akila al-Hashimi (assassinated in 2003), Director Safia Ama Jan, Kandahar's Ministry of Women's Affairs (assassinated in 2006) and the struggle of all women who, veiled or unveiled, are silenced and invisible.
I was born fearless and fearless die.
You cannot kill the spirit of God in the name of God.
Forgiveness is the lifeblood of generations,
and it will take generations
to forgive what you are doing.
I am Fatima and Maryam
I am Muhammed and Christ.
I weep tears of blood
for the pitiful hatred
you have inflicted on this earth.
You could have made a fountain
clear as a mountain spring
but make a mire.
You could have built homes for the homeless
but build mansions of pleasure.
You could have given your flesh
to the luminous atoms
of peace and understanding
but give in to the intoxication
of warring and lust.
A poem learned by the heart
cannot be burned.
When you are mortal as dust
on the desert of Dasht-e Kavir
I will still be here.
Acknowledgements: Entelechy International Issue 1, 2003, ROLLING THE SUN by Julia Older (Appledore Books, 2005) and TAHIRIH UNVEILED (Turning Point Books, 2007)
Please contact [email protected] for permission to reprint.
Photo above: Julia Older wears her "First Veil" poem
embroidered in Afghanistan
For more information about Julia Older....