It’s a quarter past
the fear of being terrorised
and forty-five minutes to
the sadism of being the aggressor
Joanne Scicluna writes, ‘These lines from Ali Alizadeh’s recent collection of poetry evoke the struggle that is at the heart of this work: the struggle with the designation of ‘otherness’ – an otherness that is, in the words of the Russian writer Mikhail Bakhtin, only contingent, external, illusory. Alizadeh’s poetry expresses a yearning for dissolution of category; a dismantling of the fictions of East and West.”
Ali Alizadeh was born in 1976 in Tehran, the capital of the then Kingdom of Iran, two years before the Iranian Revolution transformed the country into an Islamic Republic. He attended primary and ‘guidance’ school in his birthplace during the Iran–Iraq War and its immediate aftermath; and, having taken an early interest in books and literature, produced his first public writing – a simplified prose version of an episode of the early medieval epic Shah-Nameh (Book of Kings) – at 13, winning a young adults’ literary award, and becoming the subject of a documentary film for Iran’s national television.
Only months after, Ali’s world capsized as his family immigrated from the oppressive, war-torn country; and his high school years in Queensland, Australia, marred by his classmates’ racism, difficulties of adapting to a mostly hostile environment, and the tribulations of learning English, concluded with his enrolling in the Creative Arts Program at Griffith University, Gold Coast Campus, in 1995.
Ali’s experience as a Creative Writing student at Griffith was formative: influenced by new friends and popular ‘grunge’ music, he began writing ‘performance poems’ and reading them at pubs and student gatherings; then offered to do his Honours at the same university, he produced an experimental ‘rhizomic’ narrative poem titled eliXir: a story in poetry, his first book.
Ali then moved to Melbourne to study his PhD at Deakin University, completing his thesis, an exploration and redefinition of epic poetry titled La Pucelle: the Epic of Joan of Arc, in 2004; while publishing poems and other writings in local and national literary journals, and winning the Verandah magazine’s 2000 Literary Award for the long poem ‘Princess’. Among other works of this period were a poetry-film collaboration with director Bill Mousoulis, A Sufi Valentine; and the poem ‘Rumi’, first performed at La Mama Theatre, published in the literary journal Going Down Swinging, featured on ABC television’s Sunday Arts program in 2007, and included in The Penguin Anthology of Australian Poetry in 2008.
Ali has also had poetry, poetry translations and poetry reviews published in literary journals such as Overland, HEAT, Southerly, Kalimat, The Warwick Review, Poetry Review, Wasafiri, Famous Reporter, Divan, Cordite Poetry Review, turnrow, Red Weather, Voiceworks and Woorilla; The Age newspaper; and anthologies such as Over There: Poems from Singapore and Australia, Said the Rat!, The Best Australian Poems 2008, Contemporary Australian Poetry in Chinese Translation, and Culture Is . . . Australian Stories Across Cultures.
Since being awarded his PhD in Professional Writing, Ali has published three more books: a collection of poems articulating perceptions shaped by violence, Eyes in Times of War (Salt Publishing, 2006); with Kenneth Avery, translations of mystical poems of a Sufi master, Fifty Poems of Attar (re.press, 2007); and the novel The New Angel (Transit Lounge Publishing, 2008), a tragic love story set during the Iran–Iraq War. Having decided to leave Australia in search of creative emancipation and inspiration, he lived in China for two years until 2007, then in Turkey for another year, before moving to Dubai where he currently lives with his wife Penelope and son Jasper, and teaches English composition, creative writing and literature. Ali is the reviews editor for the literary journal Cordite Poetry Review. His next book, a work of creative non-fiction based on his grandfather’s life and the history of modern Iran, will be published in 2009.
eliXir: a story in poetry, Grendon Press, Mont Albert, 2002
Eyes in Times of War, Salt Publishing, Cambridge, UK, 2006
The New Angel, Transit Lounge Publishing, Melbourne, 2008
Fifty Poems of Attar, with Kenneth Avery, re.press, Melbourne, 2007
Irene’s Inquisition, Chapel off Chapel, Melbourne, 2001
Elixir, The Store Room, Melbourne, 2002
A Sufi Valentine, La Mama Theatre, Melbourne, 2004
A Nocturne, with Bill Mousoulis, Innersense Productions, Melbourne, 2007
Worlds within Worlds, Shannon-Goodrich Ensemble, Newmarket Music, Melbourne, 2007
‘Eyes in Times of War’ in In/Stead winter 2008 issue 2:
‘Ali Alizadeh reviews Philip Mead’ in Cordite Poetry Review issue 29:
‘Ali Alizadeh reviews Charles Simic’ in Cordite Poetry Review issue 28:
‘Hidden Signs of a City’ in Cordite Poetry Review issue 28:
‘Introduction’ for editor Sheema Kalbasi’s anthology Seven Valleys of Love:
‘Ali Alizadeh reviews Dimitris Tsaloumas’ in Cordite Poetry Review issue 27:
‘On Contemporary Poetry in Iran’ in Salt Magazine issue 1:
‘The Poetics of Sufi Madness’, catalogue essay for Peter Daverington’s Dervishes Series:
‘Ali Alizadeh reviews Anthony Joseph’ in Cordite Poetry Review:
‘Chinese Literature, Anyone?’ in Beijing Review number 5, 1 February 2007:
‘Ali Alizadeh reviews Ian McBryde and Tim Sincalir’ in Cordite Poetry Review:
‘Wandering in Wuhan’ in Cordite Poetry Review issue 23:
‘Converting History into Poetry: Examples from La Pucelle‘, in In/Stead spring 2005 issue 1:
‘Review: Shadow Selves by Deb Mathews-Zott’ in Network Review of Books September 2004:
‘Confused About Sufi Poetry?’ in Saloni M:
‘Iran, War, Displacement and my choice of Joan of Arc’ in TEXT volume 7 number 2 October 2003: http://www.textjournal.com.au/oct03/alizadeh.htm
‘Towards a Poetics for the Epic: the Case of Ditie de Jehanne d’Arc‘ in TEXT volume 5 number 2 October 2001: http://www.textjournal.com.au/oct01/alizadeh.htm
Conversation with James Panichi on ABC Radio National’s The Book Show:
Barry Hill reviews Fifty Poems of Attar in The Australian:
Heather Taylor Johnson reviews Eyes in Times of War in Cordite:
Alison Corggon reviews A Sufi Valentine in Theatre Notes:
Patrick Mangeni reviews eliXir: a story in poetry in TEXT: