Persian Poet: A Woman Made of Fire

Written by Stained Napkins

As a poet, I’m always looking at words throughout the city, whether it be the ‘you look beautiful today’ message posted at my train station or newspaper headlines when at my local corner store. However, none of these words have been as profound or as consistent as the words of Persian Poet.

Persian Poet, who was born and raised in the suburbs of Chicago, has been writing poetry her entire life, beginning as early as elementary school when she stitched together a hardcover book of poems about family for an assignment. It’s come natural to her ever since. Inspired by the short yet visceral and thought-provoking poetry by Rupi Kaur, Yung Pueblo and the original Iranian poets like Hafez and Rumi.

Persian Poet’s work often explores themes of self-improvement and healing. In one of her poems, she writes, “sometimes we have to grow apart to grow closer to who we are meant to be.” A characteristic of her poetry is how the reader inserts themselves into it. I’ve found myself one way or another in most of her work. My favorite is: “time is the only currency that never loses value so be mindful how you spend it.” Time is a big theme within my poetry and as someone who’s constantly trying to get his head out of the past and be present, this poem serves as a reminder that time is not as disposible as we think.

In early 2021, she began taking to the streets, writing on the sidewalk and walls with marker. She’s since evolved her medium into stickers and stencils (with the help of AJ Lavilla) but still uses her classic markers. Her goal was to express her pain, in the hopes of lending a hand to those who might need emotional support. “To give people what I wish I had when I was going through that heartache and that break up and that loss.” Her words have since been spread across North America, in cities like Dallas, Denver, Chicago, Washington D.C. and Mexico City.

Our conversation began at Poetica Coffee, it seemed like a fitting place for two poets to have a conversation. We had met two doors down at a different coffeeshop, The Lost Draft but moved due to a lack of seating. I remember looking around for anyone who stood out of place, before remembering that there is no traditional look to a poet. We’re not all turtlenecks and scarves. Some of them wear sunglasses and puffer jackets.

I first encountered Persian Poet’s work back in 2021 whilst slapping up my own stickers down on Bowery. ‘Smile, it’s not over’ written on the side walk. Her words followed me along my journey and I began to reflect on my own recent break up. It is over, I thought, but the sentiment still made me smile nonetheless. I was excited to have another street poet in the scene, as we seem to be a slowly growing breed in New York. It’s a beautiful thing when one decides to take their pain and lessons and share them for strangers to see.

“In a city with so much energy and so many people and such a fast-paced environment, I wanted to give someone a reason to stop,” she told me. In its core I think that’s what poetry is all about. Offering a moment of reflection, a chance to reshape the way you think about something or even someone. Perhaps I should’ve been a bit kinder, I should check in on my friend, the moon does have a sense of magic to it. Persian Poet takes our very human emotions and displays them for others who might be suppressing or ignoring them to finally embrace how they feel. “It was really meant to just give people something that I wish I had. Those are little bursts of positivity and moments of stillness in this crazy, wild city that’s rarely ever still.”

“It was really meant to just give people something that I wish I had. Those are little bursts of positivity and moments of stillness in this crazy, wild city that’s rarely ever still.”

Persian Poets work has shifted over the years, from providing stillness to those in need, to bringing awareness on the Iranian Women’s Movement, a matter if not then rarely brought up in world news. Many have protested in light of the murder of Jina “Mahsa” Amini, a woman who was arrested and died under police custody at the age of 22 for improperly wearing her hijab, a punishable crime for women in Iran. Women rallied together to protest the heavy dress code laws by burning their hijabs, dancing around the fire and cutting their hair. Many women have since died during the protests, one being Nika Shahkarami, a 16-year-old girl. When her mother confronted the authorities about her death, they threatened to burn her to which she replied, “You can’t burn women made of fire.” The quote has since become a popular slogan among protests and the movement.

As a first-generation born Iranian, Persian Poet could not simply sit aside as these atrocities continue to happen. She took to the streets to spray paint ‘Support Iranian Women’. “At the end of the day all we have is our voice and we have to use it,” she expressed. She hopes this message will bring more awareness and shed light in order to oppose the regime and counter their social media and internet bans. The streets have always been the best way to share information and spread awareness. Whether you chose to see things or not, the message is still there. As she said, “It’s a way to take your pain and trying to do something with it.”

“It’s a way to take your pain and trying to do something with it.”

There are many things Persian Poet plans for the future. She hopes to continue learning and growing as a writer, exhibiting at art shows and perhaps even be a part of a workshop. She also hopes to paint her first mural, publish her debut book, and raise more awareness for Iranian women through merch. Until then the streets will continue to carry on her words just as she provides them. They’ll continue to inspire and move unsuspecting bystanders who might need some reassurance.

“Sharing my voice because I know that my words, are words that some people need to hear. Maybe they don’t have words and maybe they feel like no one else in the world is feeling exactly like me and I don’t know how to deal with this, I’m alone. And when they hear my words, they’re like I feel exactly like this, I’m not alone. And so, giving people that sort of home in my words is like helping people find a home within themselves.”

“Sharing my voice because I know that my words, are words that some people need to hear.”

Stained Napkins is a New York-based photographer and street poet.