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Bänoo Zan


First Language(s): Persian (Farsi)
Second Language(s): English, Mazani


Bänoo Zan is an immigrant poet and poetry curator with over 200 published pieces and three books, two released after she landed in Canada — “Songs of Exile” (2016), shortlisted for Gerald Lampert Award, and “Letters to My Father” (2017.) She is the founder of Shab-e She’r (Poetry Night), Toronto’s most diverse, inclusive, and brave poetry reading and open mic series.


What was your favorite book as a child?

I do not remember having a favourite book as a child; however, I remember my favourite books as a teenager were mostly books of poetry in Persian by Hafez (Hafiz), Rumi, Sa’adi, Vahshi Bafghi, Araghi, Forough Farrokhzad, Sohrab Sepehri, Ahmad Shamlou, Mehdi Akhavan Sales, and many other great Iranian poets.

Do you remember the original reason or motivation why you started writing creatively?

I lost a pet chicken when I was ten years old. My first poem was an elegy for my pet written in Persian, roughly entitled, “Grieving the Death of the Chicken”.

What was the most adventurous or thrilling thing you ever did/experienced?

Immigrating to Canada! It is the loneliest journey I have ever been on and still is after more than nine years. I have not been able to connect with Canadians (those born and raised in Canada regardless of their ethnic background) emotionally as friends and have remained more or less an outsider despite everything in my bio. I periodically go through dark phases because of this. To be honest, I would not have immigrated had I known beforehand how unfriendly Canadians are and do not recommend Canada as a destination for immigrants. This is a crazy culture: everyone wants to sleep with you. No one wants to be your friend.

Do you listen to music while reading or writing?

I do not have a routine. Sometimes I do and sometimes I don’t. My first draft comes to me in unexpected places and times under “inspiration”. I always carry a little notebook with me wherever I go. I even put the notebook by my bedside before going to sleep, as it has happened that poems have come to me in sleep. The subsequent drafts are usually revised and written or typed at my desk. However, as each poem evokes a different emotional, philosophical, political, and intellectual intensity, I may listen to music or even the news or just to myself depending on what the poem demands and also depending on my mood.


Zhang Yu, 23, from China
Issue Spring '20

Supported by:

Land Steiermark: Kultur, Europa, Außenbeziehungen
U.S. Embassy Vienna
Stadt Graz