Bridging Cultures: Poetic Voices of the Muslim World

Bridging Cultures: Poetic Voices of the Muslim World examines the central role of poetry in the everyday lives of Muslim men and women around the globe. It taps into poetry's ability to create indelible images, extend the reach of language, and to express complex ideas and feelings though metaphor, making it a powerful force for illuminating cultural experiences. The many forms of poetry of the Muslim World provide the language of one’s beloved, tell the stories of epic heroes, honor the departed, celebrate marriage, express the insights of the moment or speak to God and, often, shape a way of life.

The project consists of three mutually reinforcing components: 1) a series of public talks, discussions and poetry readings, many enlivened by music and dance performances that will help audiences experience first-hand the rich music and profound poetic traditions of these centuries-old cultures; 2) a lushly-illustrated, colorful and vibrant exhibit featuring arresting photography and calligraphic text, as well as the work of poets such as Rumi (the best-selling poet in America), Adonis and Hafiz traveling to in six cities across the United States accompanying the exhibit; and 3) a rich, poem-filled website.

Developed by Poets House and City Lore, Poetic Voices of the Muslim World highlights the poetic traditions from four major language areas — Arabic, Persian, Turkish, and Urdu — and introduces poetry from Asia, Africa and diaspora communities in the United States, providing new ways for Americans to discover how poetry plays a central role in the intellectual, spiritual, social and political aspects of these cultures.

In partnership with the American Library Association (ALA), Poets House and City Lore Bridging Cultures: Poetic Voices of the Muslim World will travel to public libraries in six cities: Los Angeles, California; Milwaukee, Wisconsin and Detroit, Michigan; Jacksonville, Florida; the Borough of Queens in New York, New York and Washington, D.C. These libraries have been selected based upon geographical distribution, the size and significance of the city’s Muslim population, and the library system’s commitment to this project. Poets House will also convene scholars to explore the humanities themes of this project.

This project is the result of an NEH Bridging Cultures Planning grant received in 2010 to produce Illuminated Verses: Poetries of the Islamic World, which City Lore and Poets House produced in conjunction with the Asia Society and the Borough of Manhattan Community College.

Presentations will include:


Spring 2013

Jacksonville Public Library
Islam and The Blues with Dr. Sylviane Diouf
Saturday, March 02, 2013, 7 pm
Adam W. Herbert University Center, Grand Ballroom
University of North Florida, 12000 Alumni Drive, Jacksonville

Words of Praise: the Qasida with Dr. Michael Sells and Amir ElSaffar & Safaafir
Tuesday, March 26, 2013, 7 pm
Jacksonville Public Library (Main Library), Hicks Auditorium, Conference Center Level
303 N Laura St, Jacksonville

The Worlds of the Ghazal with Syed Akbar Hyder and Kiran Ahluwalia
Saturday, April 06, 2013, 7 pm
Talon Room, Osprey Commons, Building 16, 4th Floor
University of North Florida, 1 University of North Florida Drive, Jacksonville

Song of the Reed: Rumi with Dr. Jawid Mojadeddi and Amir Vahab & his ensemble
Wednesday, May 29, 2012, 7 pm
Adam W. Herbert University Center, Grand Ballroom
University of North Florida, 12000 Alumni Drive, Jacksonville

Los Angeles Public Library
Song of the Reed: Rumi with Dr. Jawid Mojaddedi and Amir Vahab & his ensemble
Tuesday, March 12, 2013, 6:30pm
Los Angeles Public Library, Westwood Branch, 1246 Glendon Ave, Los Angeles

Lecture & Reading by poet Persis Karim
Saturday, April 06, 2013, 2pm
Los Angeles Public Library, Westwood Branch, 1246 Glendon Ave, Los Angeles

Poetry from Anatolia: the Ottoman Lyric and the Turkish Folk Song with Dr. Kemal Silay
Saturday, April 13, 2013, 2pm
Los Angeles Public Library (Central Library) 630 W 5th St, Los Angeles

Words of Praise: the Qasida with Dr. Michael Sells and Zafer Tawil & his Ensemble
Saturday, May 18, 2013m, 2pm
Los Angeles Public Library (Central Library) 630 W 5th St, Los Angeles


Fall 2013

DC Public Library
Veils and Words: Iranian Women Poets of the 20th Century with Dr. Farzaneh Milani
Tuesday, September 10, 2013, 7:00pm
Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial Library (Central) Library
901 G St NW, Washington, DC

Understanding Turkish Cultures through Poetry: From Sufism to Postmodernism with Dr. Kemal Silay
Monday, October 7, 2013, 7:00pm
Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial Library (Central) Library
901 G St NW, Washington, DC

Song of the Reed: Rumi with Dr. Jawid Mojadeddi and Amir Vahab & his Ensemble
Wednesday October 23, 2012, 7:00pm
Watha T. Daniel-Shaw Neighborhood Library
1630 7th St. NW, Washington, DC

Islam and The Blues with Dr. Sylviane Diouf
Tuesday, October 29, 2013, 7:00pm
Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial Library (Central) Library
901 G St NW, Washington, DC

The Worlds of the Ghazal with Syed Akbar Hyder and Kiran Ahluwalia
Tuesday, November 19, 2013, 7:00pm
Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial Library (Central) Library
901 G St NW, Washington, DC

Milwaukee Public Library
Song of the Reed: Rumi with Dr. Jawid Mojadeddi and Amir Vahab & his Ensemble
Tuesday, September 24, 2013, 6:30pm
Central Library, Centennial Hall
733 N. Eighth Street, Milwaukee

The Worlds of the Ghazal with Syed Akbar Hyder and Kiran Ahluwalia
Sunday, October 6, 2013, 2:00pm
Central Library, Centennial Hall
733 N. Eighth Street, Milwaukee

Islam and The Blues with Dr. Sylviane Diouf
Sunday, November 03, 2013, 1:00pm
Marquette University’s Varsity Theater
1326 W. Wisconsin Ave. Milwaukee

Yemeni Women’s Poetic Traditions with Dr. Najwa Adra
Sunday, November 17, 2013, 2:00pm
Central Library, Centennial Hall
733 N. Eighth Street, Milwaukee


Spring 2014

Detroit Public Library
Words of Praise: the Qasida with Dr. Michael Sells and Amir ElSaffar with the ensemble Safaafir
Saturday, March 15, 2014, 1:00pm
Detroit Public Library (Central), 5201 Woodward Ave., Detroit MI

Islam and The Blues with Dr. Sylviane Diouf
Saturday, April 12, 2014, 1:00pm
Detroit Public Library (Central), 5201 Woodward Ave., Detroit MI

Song of the Reed: Rumi with Dr. Jawid Mojadeddi and Amir Vahab and his ensemble
Wednesday, May 21, 2014, 6:00pm
Detroit Public Library (Central), 5201 Woodward Ave., Detroit, MI

Syrian-American Hip-Hop & Spoken Word artist Omar Offendum
Friday, May 30, 2014, 6:00pm
Detroit Public Library (Central), 5201 Woodward Ave., Detroit, MI
in collaboration with the Arab American National Museum

Queens Library
Poetic Voices of the Muslim World Exhibit Opening
Wednesday, March 05, 2014, 6:00-8:00pm
Queens Central Library, 89-11 Merrick Boulevard, Jamaica, NY

Islam and The Blues with Dr. Sylviane Diouf
Saturday, April 5, 2pm
Queens Central Library, 89-11 Merrick Boulevard, Jamaica, NY

The Worlds of the Ghazal with Syed Akbar Hyder and ghazal singer Kiran Ahluwalia
Saturday, April 26, 2014, 1:30 pm
Flushing Library, 41-17 Main St. Flushing, NY

Love Speaks: A Day of Art and Poetry from the Muslim World
Sunday, May 12, 2013, 1:00-4:30pm
The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 1000 5th Ave, New York NY

Song of the Reed: Rumi with Dr. Jawid Mojadeddi and Amir Vahab and his ensemble
Saturday, May 17, 2014, 5:00 pm
Flushing Library, 41-17 Main St. Flushing, NY

E-mails from Scheherazad: Poetry Reading and talk with poet Mohja Kahf
Saturday, May 31, 2014, 3pm
Jackson Heights Library, 35-51 81st Street, Jackson Heights, NY

These programs will be supplemented by events featuring local performers and presenters at each library.

For more information, visit the Poetic Voices of the Muslim World website.

Co-sponsored by City Lore and presented in partnership with the American Library Association.