In this issue, we are delighted to share a link to a poetry reading hosted by e*lix*ir, during which nine e*lix*ir poets met across time zones in the presence of a global audience, to mark the centenary of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá’s passing with poems about His life and ministry.
Opening Remarks: The Station of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá
Prayer: “O Lord so rich in bounty, so replete with grace...”
Readings: Anthony Lee (United States)
Harriet Fishman (United States)
Imelda Maguire (Ireland)
Valerie Senyk (Canada)
James Andrews (United States)
Arlette Manasseh (Scotland)
Andreana Lefton (United States)
Sandra Lynn Hutchison (Canada)
Mahvash Sabet (Iran)
Closing Tablet: “Glad Tidings! Glad Tidings!”
On Saturday November 20th, nine poets from five countries marked the centenary of the passing of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá with a reading of poetry written specifically for this poignant occasion.
In a Zoom meeting at 3 p.m. EST, American poets Tony Lee, Andreana Lefton, Harriet Fishman, and James Andrews; Canadian poets Valerie Senyk and Sandra Lynn Hutchison; Irish poet Imelda Maguire; Scottish poet Arlette Manasseh, and Iranian poet Mahvash Sabet came together to share with a global audience work they had written in commemoration of the life and ministry of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá — a unique figure in history, the perfect exemplar of Bahá’u’lláh’s teachings, the authoritative interpreter of His writings, the one designated by Bahá’u’lláh as “the Mystery of God,” who in His person harmonized human nature with superhuman knowledge and capacity.
In His Memorials of the Faithful, ‘Abdu’l-Bahá paints a stirring portrait of poetry “written in sheer ecstasy.” An early believer, Nabil-i-Zarandi, “sang the praises of the one Beloved of both worlds and of those about His threshold, writing verses in the pentameter and hexameter forms, composing lyrics and long odes,” writes ‘Abdu’l-Bahá (pp. 34-35).
Another early Bahá’í and a coppersmith by trade, Aqa Muhammad-Ibrahim, composed “verses like stringed pearls,” reciting in the presence of Bahá’u’lláh an elegy he had written for Mirza Muhammad Hasan, known as “the King of Martyrs,” the lines of which, ‘Abdu’l-Bahá recalls, “were touching in the extreme, so that all who were there shed tears, and voices were raised in grief.” (ibid., p. 31)
In His collection of vignettes, ‘Abdu’l-Bahá memorializes other poets as well, including a carpenter and master craftsman named Ustad Ali-Akbar-i-Najjar, who was “a gifted poet, writing odes in eulogy of Bahá’u’lláh.” (ibid., p. 39).
In the same spirit, poets from around the world have taken up their pens in an effort to befittingly eulogize the one Shoghi Effendi has described as the “solace” and “mainstay” of the Bahá’í community after Bahá’u’lláh’s passing, and as “the Image of His perfections, the Mystery of His Revelation, the Interpreter of His mind, [and] the Architect of His World Order” (God Passes By, p. 245). As ‘Abdu’l-Bahá Himself affirms, poetry holds a special place in gatherings:
Verily, these verses shall be sung in the divine meetings and in the assemblages of the spiritual in the course of ages and centuries to come, for thou hast uttered the praise of thy Lord and expressed significant meanings in eulogy of thy Lord, the Merciful, the Clement.... (Tablets of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, Vol. I)
* This article appears in bahaiteachings.org.