Creative Writing MFA Alumni Spotlight: Jahan Khajavi ('20)

Author: Paul Cunningham

Jahan Khajavi Author Photo
Artist: Tae Won Yu

"Drawing extensively on Iranian poetic traditions and the history of their reception in English translation, Feast of the Ass presents a series of verses that play in the fields of love poetry’s address. Khajavi irreverently ruffles the 'classical grandeur & quiet dignity' of inherited forms in order to consider the poet’s relationship to death, literature, race, religion, and sexuality, his 'queer shoulder / set not to the wheel—so long, Solon!—but turned on to some bolder / axon.'"

— Ugly Duckling Presse

Jahan Khajavi's ('20) debut poetry collection is Feast of the Ass, and it's being distributed by Ugly Duckling Presse, a publisher of experimental poetry, poetry in translation, nonfiction, and performance texts. Of Feast of the Ass, Farid Matuk writes, "Khajavi torques the poem about a double edge of humor and tenderness." Drawing comparisons to the writing of Allen Ginsberg and Oscar Wilde, Moira Egan describes the poetry collection as "Queer, cunning, quirky," arguing that Khajavi is a poet "deeply read in the traditions, a poet capable of willfully and skillfully rhyming Persians and perversions, patois and fatwa. The lines are lyrical and lewd, and often simply lovely."

In June, award-winning poet, translator, and essayist Aditi Machado invited Khajavi to participate in the reading series she curates for The Brooklyn RailKhajavi read with poets Dong Li (translator of Song Lin's The Gleaner Song) and Sarah María Medina (whose work appears in Queer Nature: A Poetry Anthology). In July, an excerpt from Khajavi's "Profane Geometry" ( one of the poems that appear in Feast of the Ass) was published in Nowruz Journal: A Perodical of Persian Arts & Letters:

This is how we write a poem: find
& fill an empty room with stand-in words,
the open-ended oft-offensive kind,
then dress them up a bunch of sand-n-words,
our spitting image, following the leader
inwards. Finally, to help the reader
understand, each line is underlined
with overstated rhythm, rhyme, & end words.


Jahan Khajavi is a poet from Fresno, California living in Rome, Italy with an MFA from the University of Notre Dame and a debut collection of poetry, Feast of the Ass, from Ugly Duckling Presse (2023). Khajavi also has a forthcoming translation with Tim Moore of Sleepless Traveler by Sandro Penna and collaborated on the book The Rubaiyat of Gianni Politi, both from NERO Editions. Recent poems by Khajavi have been included in Nowruz Journal, Ballast, Annulet, Oomph!, Essential Voices: Poetry of Iran & Its Diaspora from Green Linden Press, and Home Is Where You Queer Your Heart from Foglifter Press.