Prison Poems by Mahvash Sabet is a collection of poems written while Sabet was imprisoned in Iran for being a leader in the Baha’i community. For more information on her and other members imprisoned, click here. She was arrested in 2008 and jailed for two and a half years before being convicted and sentenced to twenty years in prison in 2010. This book was made possible through the translation and organization by Bahiyyih Nakhjavani.
Poems by Mahvash Sabet , one of the seven members of the Yaran– the group of imprisoned Bahá’í leaders in Iran. These poems testify to the courage and the despair, the misery and the hopes of thousands of Iranians struggling to survive conditions of extreme oppression. Her poems have allowed her to speak when words were denied, to talk when no one was listening to her. But unlike many prison poems, hers are not merely a catalogue of hopes and fears. Sometimes a means of historical documentation, a chronicle of what the Bahá’ís have been subjected to since their incarceration; sometimes a series of portraits of other women trapped in prison with her; sometimes meditations on powerlessness, on loneliness; her poems are plangent with appeal, ardent with hope – for whatever the accusations against her, she is a prisoner of faith.
I won’t say that I’m particularly skilled at poetry, but I took a couple poetry classes while in school and I did, for a time, work for my university’s literary magazine. What I will say is that I know what I like when it comes to poems, and what I don’t. And I loved this collection of poems. I don’t read a lot of poetry compilations, but I felt really connected to this book of poems, simply because I, myself, am Baha’i and I have been hearing about Sabet and the other Baha’i leaders imprisoned, collectively known as the Yaran, for a while. It’s not one of those things that’s covered much here in the States, but within the Baha’i community, it certainly is. I had no idea that Sabet had written this collection of poems until I was searching for books to read for Book Riot’s challenge prompt for reading a book written in prison.
I’m so glad I came across this book. Earlier this year or last I read a collection of poems by Rupi Kaur and I just did not enjoy it. The poems just didn’t speak to me. So I’m glad that I’ve come across Sabet’s collection, because I feel like I’ve found some poetry that I actually enjoy reading and that really moves me, emotionally.
I wish I could have read these in their original language, because I’ve heard Persian spoken and it is beautiful, especially when it’s used to recite poetry. As it is, I think the translator did an excellent job, for I could feel the love, pain, and longing that is infused into these poems. Many of the poems are about wanting to be free, which is understandable, given they are written by someone imprisoned. But so many of them are just lovely and beautiful, about the world and about loving others. Many of the poems are written to a specific person, and I could definitely feel Sabet’s love and compassion for that person.
Overall, I think I’d like to own a copy of this collection. I think the poems are beautiful, speak to the soul, and they made me feel a range of emotions. I’d definitely recommend the book to anyone who likes to read poetry.
Thoughts & Thanks:
Thank you so much for reading my review! I hope I’ve helped aid you in your decision to read this book. If you have read it or if you’re thinking about reading it, let me know what you thought in the comments! And as always, happy reading!