Sheyr Jangi: Lineages of Survival (Reading)
Presenters: Majda Gama, Rami Karim, Aurora Masum-Javed, Sahar Muradi, Sham-e-Ali Nayeem, Zohra Saed, Purvi Shah
National Housing Center Room B
Poetic duels are found across cultures and times, with vibrant traditions throughout the Middle East, Central Asia, and South Asia. The Afghan tradition is called “sheyr jangi,” or “poetry fighting,” and has roots in early medieval Central Asian Courts. As poets of Middle Eastern and South Asian descent, we pay homage to this tradition—with a twist. With a curated “deck” of classical poems written in Arabic, Persian, Turkic, and Urdu—and our audience’s involvement—we invite our poets to battle these literary ancestors. In this time of increasing Islamophobia and xenophobia, we will enable festival participants to hear poetry from communities directly impacted by current policies, uncover lineages for survival, and discover new ways of integrating poetry into our cultural resistance while honoring ancestors, present struggles, and our brilliant resilience. Poets will share original work, followed by improvisational sheyr jangi in collaboration with the audience. Our talented poets bring expertise as cultural workers engaged in activism, social practice, community dialogue, and mobilizing literary community—all helping provide an urgent and life-affirming participatory reading.