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Shabnam Piryaei

Described by the San Francisco Book Review as “a force to be reckoned with in literary circles,” Shabnam Piryaei is an award-winning poet, playwright, media artist, and filmmaker. In addition to authoring the books Nothing is Wasted (The Operating System, 2017), Forward (Museum Books, 2014) and Ode to Fragile (Plain View Press, 2010), her films have screened at film festivals, art galleries, and public installations around the world. She’s been awarded the Sonia Sanchez-Langston Hughes Poetry Award, Poets & Writers Amy Award, the Transport of the Aim Poetry Prize, the Brain Mill Press Editors’ Choice, an Elizabeth George Foundation Grant, a Northern Manhattan Arts Alliance Grant, a Puffin Foundation grant, a Barbara Deming Memorial Fund Grant and a fellowship from the Vermont Studio Center. Her play “A Time to Speak” was staged at the MAD Theatre Festival in the United Kingdom. She is currently directing a documentary film entitled No Separate Survival about asylum seekers across the U.S.-Mexico border. She holds a PhD in Comparative Literature and teaches in the department of Broadcast & Electronic Communication Arts at San Francisco State University. She is the founder and curator of the online art and interview journal MUSEUM. Her art has been exhibited at the Unlike Art Gallery, Elysium Art Gallery, New Gallery London, Youyou Gallery, Jotta, Galleria Perelà, Kala Art Institute, and Yerba Buena Center for the Arts. You can read more about her work here:

Shabnam Piryaei
Portrait courtesy of Alex Wu, photographer


all children.

Publication Date:

June 1, 2024

all children. is for the child in every reader.

May it open a portal to places that feel distant, obscured, or  even devastating—to offer a light that speaks directly to the infinite  and perfect light in each of us.

all children. is inspired by  two kids journals: Highlights Magazine, the author’s daily refuge as a  young, sibling-less immigrant child in the U.S.; and All Children Magazine, a Farsi and English kids journal the author published with her father out of their house when she was 12.

Letters from Readers

This is your task: infiltrate every pediatrician’s office & sneak copies of all children. into  the stacks of old magazines, to be uncovered like a holy relic of light  by all the weird kids, by the misunderstood kids, the hurt kids, by  children with too much inside them, by those afraid to say what must be  said, by children who are also adults & trapped in a culture of  violence & trauma, children who’ve hidden inside themselves for  lifetimes, which is to say, by all children, as we are all children. In  this swirling book of beautiful & terrifying & hilarious &  terrifying writing, Shabnam Piryaei uses the light-hearted rhetoric of  children’s magazines to reach to the reader, to hold a light up in the  darkness each reader holds inside. This is a book unlike any other. It  is here to help you.

— Mathias Svalina

I remember as a kid reading Highlights and loving  it—the stories, activities, comics, what’s wrong with this picture?  puzzles—but also feeling ill at ease, like it, with all the materials of  my youth, was hiding something. Now, reading Shabnam Piryaei’s all children. (←with its definitive, sonorous period), I can see that what it was hiding was: consciousness.  Piryaei’s work is like a children’s magazine rewritten in the language  of poetry, revealing childhood—what it is made of, what it is  re/making—as far more precarious, unpredictable and spellbinding.

— Brandon Shimoda

So alive—this radical book of visions and portals and light,  each phrase a vial of energy, capacious and exquisitely honed, like:  “kindred I love / you. who is your light / for.” For me all children.  is a book of spirits, a mystic’s gorgeous trace, an experimental  children’s magazine for adults (“Family / I am speaking to the child /  in you.”). Here Shabnam Piryaei so fiercely orients us toward life and  one another that my eye, in the midst of catastrophe, is by hers  touched: “Nape of morning. / Miracle / worlding miracle.”

— Aracelis Girmay

Shabnam Piryaei’s all children. takes  the form of a children’s magazine, a fascinating formal conceit carried  out expertly. A reader encounters all the cartoons and games and  recipes and cryptograms and riddles one might expect in such an affair.  But Piryaei utterly stranges it, ironizes the form and the book’s title  itself, demonstrating how not all children are equally able  to enjoy the reverie of childhood, of puzzles in a kid’s book. Piryaei  writes: “Say something ordinary. Repeat it until it no longer sounds  ordinary.” The effect is haunting, incisive, wildly uncanny. This is a  book I won’t soon forget, and a writer I’ll be watching closely.

— Kaveh Akbar

Shabnam Piryaei’s stunning collection all children.,  which imitates the form of a children’s magazine, is dotted with both  hand-drawn and computer-generated illustrations—form revealing imagery  rife with motifs of animals, children’s games, and even violence. “To  love is to create / all from a tale of nothing,” and yet the poet muses  that the life of a child (both literal and figurative) is often burdened  with the need to “navigate the tenacity of the  dark.” Even so, Piryaei’s pen deftly reveals and hides—both giving and  taking—the ways in which the child in all of us is or is not perceived  and given love. There are clever uses of erasure throughout the work  that ultimately change the landscape of a poem (its transformation in  itself a form of revelation). The poet speaks of infinite tragedies,  large and small: current events such as the COVID pandemic, during which  the quarantine prevented much of domestic child abuse from being  detected, are intertwined with tiny tragedies disguised as fairytale  prose. But “to summon the sheer scope of life” evokes much more than  such tragedy. all children. speaks, indeed, to all  children—our current selves never truly separate from our childhood  identities. Piryaei’s language is masterful—at once exacting and  beautiful—infinitely pleasurable to puzzle out. Bravo.

— Ina Cariño

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