Poetry Book Review: Songs of Exile by Bänoo Zan

I recently finished reading Bänoo Zan’s poetry collection titled Songs of Exile. I’ve rated it 4.5/5 stars!

Zan is a poet from Iran who settled in Canada in 2010. It took her a while to adjust to her new environment and she ended up exploring the literary circles and eventually started her own Shab-e-Sher (Poetry Night in Persian) to add diversity to the community. She recognized the need for a more multicultural literary community and so she took the initiation, and personally, I think this was quite amazing and brave. When I read about her I loved the fact that she believes literature is the gateway to many cultures. It’s quite inspiring to me that she read 13 books by Margaret Atwood before moving to Canada. I think that was quite a thoughtful thing to do.

In Songs of Exile, I was drawn to the poems from the start. The language is very captivating and the way the poems really get into your head impressed me. She uses beautiful imagery and religious and cultural references which balance really well. But mostly, I enjoyed the blend of Greek and Arabian/Irani mythology in the poems and the way the different characters/figures acted as metaphors or added many layers to the work.

I guess my favourite in the entire collection is the series of poems titled ‘Words’. These poems will be loved by anyone who loves writing, language and words in general. They all had a very special quality that added a deeper meaning to our relationship with language.

I’ve really learned a lot about writing poetry by reading the poems but I find it hard to describe what they really mean or what kind of theme they can all be bunched into. Sometimes it’s really political and addresses multiple issues including gender, ethnicity, colonization and war. A lot is about poetry and the relationship of the poet with the poem and vice versa. And many are about being in exile or in a new place and the experience one derives from it. I felt the collection was very multicultural in its references and style, and it was also really diverse and would appeal to people who come from different backgrounds.

I highly recommend the poetry collection. I felt some poems demanded to be read more than once and many lines compelled me to read them over again.

 I want to thank Guernica Editions for sending me a digital copy of the collection in exchange of an honest review. This was done via Net Galley. 



3 thoughts on “Poetry Book Review: Songs of Exile by Bänoo Zan

  1. Thanks for this review, Sumaiyya. I’m always interested in writings by poets and novelists who have immigrated to a different country and their writing contains both cultures. I will definitely put this on my to read list.

  2. Thanks for the introduction. Although I’m from Iran as well, I had never heard of her of works before. Your review made an impact. So curious to know her case 🙂 I’m a huge fan of Atwood and by knowing she has also covered many of her works, I’m eager to read ber poems and to grasp how things have worked for her after the journey.

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