Sept 12 – This Year’s Poet at “Celebrate Spirit” – Fatemeh Keshavarz

Friday, September 12    “My city is that cup of sunshine. . .”

The most powerful moment in “Celebrate Spirit” for me?  The entrance procession.  We prepare a raised space on the gym floor.  Six UDM men and women carry 12 foot banners with matching streamers and large medallions where cross bars meet carrying poles.  The medallions carry symbols of six great world religions — Buddhism, Hinduism, Confucianism, Judaism, Islam, and Christianity.  The bearers fit the banners in anchor stands to create a visual frame at the back of the platform.  The Mass of the Holy Spirit begins, a tradition at Catholic Universities for hundreds of years blessing the academic year.   This choreography moves me year after year:  “This is who we are.  We claim our Catholic faith.  We claim our identity as welcoming citizens of the wide world in all its beauty and depth of purpose.”    Doesn’t get any better than that for me.  Dr. Achmat Salie, Director of UDM’s Islamic Studies Program, introduced Professor Fatemeh Keshavarz, this year’s speaker.

Professor Keshavarz, University of Maryland’s Roshan Chair of Persian Studies, is a poet and a scholar.  She welcomed us into our academic year by reading a poem she wrote a few days before September 11, 2001 — before she or we knew about the 9-11 attacks on New York, Washington DC and a field in western Pennsylvania.   On this year’s anniversary of 9-11 “Before the Cosmic Blast…and After” locates that violence in a vast universe of creative intensity and serenity.    If you were not there yesterday, and even if you were, it’s worth reading again ( out loud.

This week began for the Jesuits with the burial of Fr. Mike Evans, sj and changed tone with yesterday’s blessing mass.

Besides, the sun has come out to play with us on the last work day of the week, pretty sweet.

Have a great weekend.


john sj

Today’s Post

Here is another of Fatema Keshavarz’s poems; she celebrates her love for her home city in Iran.   Shiraz has lived as a center for art and beauty for c. 4000 years.  In her poem by the same name, Professor Keshavarz exults in the beauty of her ancient home.  Wikipedia tells me that “The oldest sample of wine in the world, dating to approximately 7,000 years ago, was discovered on clay jars recovered outside of Shiraz.”  Detroit is only 313 years old but I am using the poem to celebrate Motown today.  Lift a glass when you get off work.

Held up to gods
In the palm of a giant’s hands
A rare handcrafted marble cup
Brimming with sunshine
Defined at the outer edges
With tall cypress trees
That line up at dawn reverently
To interpret the horizons
In their meticulous green thoughts
My city is
That cup of sunshine
I can drink to the last drop
And be thirsty for more.

Shiraz, Dec.21, 2000


The altar for Celebrate Spirit, Callahan Hall


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