Back to all news stories

Evoking the spiritual

By Dana Budzaj

Kazim Ali is the featured speaker at the Oct. 7 Zell Writers Series.

Poet, novelist, and essayist, Kazim Ali, captivates audiences with his symbolic words that paint vivid pictures with hints of spiritual essence.

Born in the U.K. and raised in Canada and the United States by parents of Indian decent, Ali has been exposed to many cultures. Embracing his Muslim American background, Ali brings his personal encounters with the world to the surface for his audience through his pieces. His breadth of work covers various themes including religion, spirituality, nature and the human experience.

Ali is the featured speaker at the Oct. 7 Zell Visiting Writers Series. He will read his poetry beginning at 5 p.m. at Helmut Stern Auditorium inside the University of Michigan Museum of Art. On Oct. 1, University of Michigan Press will release “Orange Alert,” Ali’s latest writings publishes as part of UM Press’ Poets on Poetry series.

“The Far Mosque”, Ali’s first book of poetry and recipient of the Alice James Books New England/New York Award exposes mystical traditions of Eastern religions and Ali’s relationship with a more personalized God representative of the unknown.

His novel, “Quinn’s Passage,” has a style similar and reminiscent of works by Virginia Wolf and received attention when named “Best Book of 2005” by Chronogram magazine.

In his 2007 essay, “Poetry is Dangerous,” Ali recounts his experience with discrimination as a result of a stranger’s fear post 9/11. Ali’s 2009 novel, “Bright Felon: Autobiography and Cities”, is a trans-genre memoir that backpedals his own personal journey through six cities in five-years time.

His work has appeared in many literary journals including American Poetry Review, Boston Review, Jubilat, Hayden’s Ferry Review, Colorado Review, The Iowa Review, Washington Square, and New Orleans Review.

Ali received a B.A. and an M.A. in English Literature from the University at Albany, and an MFA in Creative Writing from New York University. He is a founding editor of the nonprofit publishing company Nightboat Books created in 2003. Ali currently lives in Oberlin, OH and is an assistant professor of Creative Writing at Oberlin College, in addition to teaching in the low-residency MFA program of the University of Southern Maine.