Sheniz Janmohamed’s Bleeding Light is a collection of ghazals tracing the steps of a woman’s journey through night. In order to witness dawn, she must travel through dusk first. Throughout her journey, she is caught between West and East, religion and heresy, love and anti-love, darkness and the knowledge of light. Each couplet of a ghazal is an independent thought and reflection, a pearl strung into a necklace. Bleeding Light is fraught with opposing, stark, and often violent imagery heavily influenced by Sufi philosophy.
Sheniz studied under Dionne Brand (Toronto’s current Poet Laureat), and poet Kuldip Gill, both who encouraged her to explore the ghazal form, which dates back to 7th century Persia and consists of many formalistic aspects, including couplets with refrains. As one of the only poets writing ghazals in English today, Sheniz Janmohamed gets at the heart of expression in each poem instead of circling around it.
Before her passing, Kuldip Gill said of her student: “Sheniz Janmohamed is one of a very few new poets who has mastered the form of the ghazal in a way that brings together the emotional aspects of the form and the expectations of the listeners who know the form and its cultural unity: mystic illumination, rhyme, refrains that exude passion, and couplets with wise insights. The couplets in her eloquent and appealing ghazals dazzle one with their precision, sudden turns and brilliant use of the cultural memory of language and imagery.”
Before and after its release in September, Bleeding Light has received praise from poets and readers alike. Meena Sharify-Funk (author of Encountering the Transnational: Women, Islam and the Politics of Interpretation) says: “Bleeding Light is a beautiful compilation of contemporary Sufi poetry that combines creative imagination with artistic majesty. These ghazals of Sheniz Janmohamed bring to light an all too often forgotten classical poetic sensitivity of longing for the Divine and praising the arrival of the Beloved. It is my hope that these poems find wide readership for such beauty will enrich the lives of those who contemplate the visions within them.”
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Sheniz Janmohamed is a freelance writer, poet and spoken word artist. A graduate of The University of Toronto (B.A. with Honours in English and Religion), she has also completed her Master of Fine Arts in Creative Writing at The University of Guelph—her thesis is a multi-genre exploration of her identity as a second generation South Asian Canadian and how it relates to ancestry in Kenya and India.
She has written for a variety of magazines including South Asian Living and Anokhi magazine, and was a columnist and book reviewer for City Masala magazine. Her work has appeared in the Hart House Review, the UC Review and Asian American Female Poets Anthology: Yellow as Turmeric; Fragrant as Cloves.
Sheniz is the founder and president of Ignite Poets, a spoken word youth initiative that promotes peace and social awareness through poetry. She recently traveled to Kenya to establish the Kenyan branch of Ignite Poets, work with local artists and musicians and raise money for the Hawkers Market Girls Centre in Nairobi.