Gaol poems

IMAGINE a book launch where the audience signs the book instead of the author.

That’s what will happen when The Strong Sunflower, written by refugee Mohammad Ali Maleki, is unveiled in South Fremantle later this month.

The Iranian asylum seeker has been detained on Manus Island for more than two years, and during that time has become the resident green thumb and unofficial poet laureate.

• Freo locals will be lining up to sign Iranian poet Mohammad Ali Maleki’s new book of poems; he’s stuck in a detention centre and can’t make it. Photo by Harriet Burrows

Drawing inspiration from the garden he built outside his room, Maleki often embellishes his prose with plant-based metaphors.

His poems reflect the despair of trying to survive in war-torn Iran, his fight for asylum and the plight of other refugees on Manus Island.

The Strong Sunflower was translated by close friend and fellow detainee Mansour Shoshtari, and was illustrated by fellow detainees and other Australian artists, including Walkley award-winning cartoonist Andrew Marlton, best known for First Dog on the Moon.

Signed copies of The Strong Sunflower will be sent back to Maleki as a show of appreciation and respect from his fans.

Mohammad Ali Maleki

The book launch will be hosted by Sudanese poet and playwright Afeif Ismali, and exerts will be read by local WA poets.

Australian writer and poet Andy Jackson said, “The Strong Sunflower is a profound example of the human impulse for persistence, creativity and empathy.”

The book launch, co-hosted by Refugee Rights Action Network and Mums for Refugees, will be held at Saga Bookshop, 203 South Terrace, South Fremantle at 6:30pm on June 22.

by HARRIET BURROWS

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