Developed by the national poetry library and literary center Poets House and the folklore and cultural advocacy organization City Lore, Poetic Voices of the Muslim World is a multi-year initiative begun in 2011. Our aim is to deepen public understanding of the diverse cultures of the Muslim world via its poetries.
The potential of poetry to create indelible images, extend the reach of language, and express complex ideas and feelings through metaphor makes it a powerful force for illuminating cultural experiences. In the Muslim world, far more than in our own society, poetry plays a central role in all aspects of life—intellectual, spiritual, social, and political. In these cultures, the many forms of poetry provide the language to speak of God or of one’s beloved, tell the stories of epic heroes, honor the departed, celebrate marriage, express the insights of the moments, and, often, shape a way of life. In the same way that American movies, music, and art have created pathways to understanding the U.S. for those abroad, we can find insight into these varied cultures through their poetries.
Poetic Voices of the Muslim World consists of:
• an 18-panel traveling exhibition to introduce the project to public library patrons across the U.S.;
• a series of public programs presenting the varied poetic traditions of the Muslim world through scholarly interpretation of the art;
• this companion website, a virtual recreation of the traveling exhibition, which highlights poetic traditions from four major languages: Arabic, Persian, Turkish, and Urdu, and introduces poetry from Asia and Africa as well as Muslim communities in the United States;
• the pilot program, Illuminated Verses: Poetries of the Islamic World, a series of talks, readings, panels and symposia held in the spring of 2011 in New York City and which brought together poets, scholars and artists; and,
• Essays on the Occasion of Illuminated Verses, a collection of writings by prominent scholars on what inspires them about Muslim poetry.
Poets House and City Lore worked with public library systems across the country for this project. The traveling exhibit and related programs were presented in Jacksonville, Los Angeles, Washington DC, and Milwaukee in 2013, Detroit and the Borough of Queens New York in 2014, and St Louis, San Francisco, Atlanta, and Houston in 2015.
Poets House and City Lore invite you to explore Poetic Voices of the Muslim World in the pages of this web exhibit.