This account of a new grassroots movement in Persian literature was prepared by two of its activists, Mohammad Morravej and Simin Shirazi, based outside Iran. The movement promises to rejuvenate modern Persian poetry and fiction by delivering to the public a new generation of writers who were otherwise destined to the margins.
The conservative nature of the Iranian government and its fundamentalist tendencies mitigates against innovative artistic movements. Therefore there are no centres for the development and dissemination of new poetry, be they in universities, schools or other artistic or educational institutions. Because progressive poetry draws influence from the West and its thinkers in various ways, and its proponents are usually interested in establishing a dialogue with the West, Iranian radio, television and other media do not give any coverage to modern literature. Modern ideas, poems, poets and writers are mostly omitted or censored in the prevailing media. Ali Abdolrezaei is one such case, a censored poet, writer and critic whose work has always grabbed the attention of the Persian-speaking world. He has been in exile in the UK for sixteen years.
On the other hand, new Persian literature suffers from a distinct lack of a poetics. With keen awareness of this issue Abdolrezaei set out to create a new movement in response to the prevailing conservatism. Choosing Telegram, a colloborative messaging application, as the audio-visual platform for this movement was an apt move because it is a social medium that is not filtered in Iran, and has a versatile group functionality. In a short time, the starting group of 20 grew to a super group of 5,000 members on Telegram. In the beginning, the group was aimed at coaching new writers, but with fresh content its popularity grew and more experienced writers found it attractive to become members. With growing membership came the need for group organisation to extend literary activity. Working groups began to form to execute on the group decisions. In this way the work of the group expanded into fiction and a college of fiction was also established (on Telegram).
A group of poets took on the task of collecting discussion topics and publishing a magazine called Poetry File: eleven issues have appeared. In terms of concepts and the topic of global poetry, Abdolrezaei has since been introducing and expounding on the latest developments in literary theory to the college members, including topics introduced to Persian poetry for the first time such as: the velocity of verse, obliterature and non-poem, neo-modernism, quantum literature, the anarchist poet, de-centred structures, New Criticism, etc. Alongside these discussion topics, weekly workshops are held on poetry and fiction through Telegram. Some 17,000 writers and professional readers participate as they submit work in text or in voice messages, and receive live commentary and critical reviews.
Three months after their initiation, the Poetry and Fiction Colleges looked to establish an independent voice in Iranian media and started the College's internet Poetry College Radio, which runs day and night. Having a radio station in Iran dedicated to poetry, fiction and addressing intellectual and critical problems in literature, is unprecedented.
As it is impossible to publish without censorship in Iran, Ali Abdolrezaei established a College publishing arm in order to disseminate members' work and Poetry File magazine. In order to make this literature available as free downloads, the Poetry College also designed the Kalejsher.com website, which became one of the most visited sites dedicated to Persian literature. There were daily updates including blogs, new poetry and fiction by members as well as world renowned poets, reviews, conferences and a poetry journal on the website. Unfortunately, as this article appears on PIW, the site has been blocked, and the College is seeking a new venues.
The Poetry College and its activities are very much inspired by Gilles Deleuze and Félix Guattari's idea of the rhizome. Because the mainstream media is not in our control, we have had to establish derivative channels such as websites, radio broadcasts, monthly journals etc. Another important gesture by the College has been to convert Ali Abdolrezaei's lectures into video archives, most of which can be found on Sound Cloud, YouTube, Telegram and Aparat. Every month a global poet is invited to the College for a poetry reading and interview on various topics. In this way, the voice of Persian poetry, which has been suppressed, and now emerges in the global underground, can reach out to the world. Kalejism - Persian writing collected and distributed in rhizome fashion - engages in dialogue with global poetry, so the world audience can get to know it, and for the work to continue.
So far more than 5,000 poets and writers have taken College literary courses for free, and 83 members have been elected to work in different departments of the College on a voluntary basis. The poets introduced here with their poems, are among those who work with the College and manage different departments under the mentorship of Ali Abdolrezaei.
LINKS in Persian
Poetry College Radio
College Video Channel on Aparat site
College Video Channel on YouTube
Poetry College Page on Instagram
Fiction College Page on Instagram
College Channel on SoundCloud
College Facebook Page
Telegram app sites [requiring app installation on mobile or computer]
Poetry College Super Group on Telegram
Fiction College Super Group on Telegram
Best of College Writers and Poets Channel on Telegram
Organisation of Virtual Writers Group on Telegram
Website of the College of Poetry and Fiction
Free Download of Poetry File magazine