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Poetry: From the Heart, and For the Heart

Shadi Toloui-Wallace | Jun 29, 2018

The views expressed in our content reflect individual perspectives and do not represent the authoritative views of the Baha'i Faith.

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Shadi Toloui-Wallace | Jun 29, 2018

The views expressed in our content reflect individual perspectives and do not represent the authoritative views of the Baha'i Faith.

Inspired by the gifts of nature and the teachings of the Baha’i Faith, Robert Malouf writes verses from the heart, for the heart.

Abdu’l-Baha once shared that:

It is natural for the heart and spirit to take pleasure and enjoyment in all things that show forth symmetry, harmony, and perfection. For instance: a beautiful house, a well designed garden, a symmetrical line, a graceful motion, a well written book, pleasing garments—in fact, all things that have in themselves grace or beauty are pleasing to the heart and spirit … What is poetry? It is a symmetrical collection of words … Poetry is much more effective and complete than prose. It stirs more deeply, for it is of a finer composition … All these have in themselves an organization, and are constructed on natural law. Therefore, they correspond to the order of existence like something which would fit into a mold. – Abdu’l-Baha’s words to Mrs. Mary L. Lucas, as quoted in A Brief Account of My Visit to Acca, pp. 11-14.

When I reflect on these words of Abdu’l-Baha, I find that the poetry of Robert Malouf is a true example of symmetry and fine composition that rests deeply within the mold of the human spirit.

Unconstrained by any mode or style, Robert’s work conveys the spiritual realities he muses in nature and all the beautiful gifts the Creator has bestowed on humankind. Robert is a self-confessed lover, who allows words to fall onto the page and lets his love for Baha’u’llah and the Baha’i teachings translate like a beautiful love poem written in the purest form.

Inspired by the dedication of other members of the Baha’i Faith, Robert also writes about those who’ve impacted his life, the dedication and sacrifice of prisoners of conscience, and of souls who’ve passed on. There is a sincerity in his tone, a genuine wonder that can only be led and inspired by the divine.

I interviewed Robert to learn more about the motivation and inspiration behind his beautiful poems.

Q: Where do you currently reside? How long have you been living there?

A: I’ve lived in Brookfield, Wisconsin with my beloved wife, Manijeh since 2001.

Q: How long have you been writing poetry? How were you introduced to it?

A: I started seriously writing poetry in the year 2000 at the encouragement of my wife. Without her encouragement I would not have written one verse.

Q: Has this been a full time endeavour or a passionate pastime?

A: Definitely a passionate pastime, as time allows and as inspiration comes.

Q: What styles of poetry do you like to write? What style are you most attracted to?

A: I write from the heart, for the heart. I don’t stick to any particular mode or style. If it comes from deep within I write it. If it can touch my heart I write it. If I think it may have some message or story to tell I write it.  

Q: What experiences, ideas, thoughts, inspire you to write poetry?

A: The revelation of Baha’u’llah and nature inspire me. Oftentimes I find myself musing on God’s munificence and grace, His kindness and bounty, and thoughts and words flow from this. Sometimes I find myself viewing nature, and I notice spiritual realities my soul wishes to convey. I do not concern myself with what others may think of my verse. I write from what touches my heart, mind and soul. A thought comes to mind, a seed of story, if you will, and I just let it unfold in mind and on paper. Most often revisions are necessary; occasionally the initial draft is the final version.

Q: Does your journey as a Baha’i reflect in your work?

A: It is the only thing that inspires and informs my poetry. Even the poems seemingly about nature have a clear spiritual intent. For example, “Autumn Leaves” was written in honor of the Founder of the Baha’i Faith, Baha’u’llah, and his lovers, martyrs who sacrificed their lives for this Faith.

Q: Which aspects of the Baha’i Faith motivate you as a writer?

A: For me, ultimately, it’s all about love. Baha’u’llah’s peerless utterance comes to mind:  

Kindle the fire of love and burn away all things, then set thy foot into the land of the lovers. – The Seven Valleys, p. 11.

Q: Does your belief in the Baha’i Faith play a role in your writing process?

A: I became a Baha’i at the age of 27. Since then, anything I’ve done of any value has been informed by Baha’u’llah’s teachings. The following verse from Baha’u’llah’s Book of Certitude seems relevant here:  

No thing have I perceived, except that I perceived God within it, God before it, or God after it. – p. 101.

Baha’u’llah gives us new eyes, new ears, new and creative promptings of the soul. He gives us a new life–from this the whole world appears differently before us.

Q: Are certain aspects of the Baha’i Faith reflected in the content of your work?

A: Definitely. Otherwise, for me, at least, there would be no purpose in writing verse. The love, mercy, grace, etc. of God; His word and revelation; His martyrs and saints; and dear Baha’i friends who I deeply admire and respect, as well as Baha’u’llah, himself. For example, my poem “Luminous Lady” was written to honor, although it in no way does her justice, my dear and departed friend, Mrs. Javidukht Khadem, whom I had the pleasure and bounty of learning so much from. My eyes water at the thought of her. She affected and enriched the lives of so many of us.

Q: Could you share an example of your work and a short explanation?

A: I’d like to share a poem I have yet to publish, that honors the poetry of a member of the imprisoned Baha’i leaders in Iran know as the Yaran, Mavash Sabet. The poem is entitled “It Is Theirs.” The second stanza of my poem reads:

Their verse,
In language previously
Rises to Heaven
In His praise,
Born on wings
Of obedience.
Their blood,
Ruby pure,
Gives life
To every line,
More sweetly scented
Than the roses
Of Shiraz.

Q: Your poems read like love poems—what is your intention with this approach?

A: They are love poems. Lovers speak in the language of love. Baha’u’llah said in his book The Hidden Words:

Whither can a lover go but to the land of his beloved? and what seeker findeth rest away from his heart’s desire? – p. 23.

Q: What are your plans for the future? Any publishing projects in mind?

A: To try to serve Baha’u’llah, to contribute one heart at a time to making the world a better, sweeter place for all. To find some inspiration that populates the page and maybe, just maybe, warm or touch some heart.

Q: How do you share your poems with the world? How can we best find them?

A: I have a WordPress site, Love Songs: Melodies and Harmonies from the Heart. Currently posted are 85 of the over 200 poems that I have written.  I try to add selections on a regular basis.  

Q: How can readers reach you if they want to learn more?

A: Through the above site or email me at [email protected].

I’d like to close with some final words from my website:

Poetry has the power to take flight to the high heavens and beyond; turn to the earth of the familiar and caress her gently; then dive deep into the bowels of profundity. It is this quality of poetry that allows it to walk the shores and enter the seas of receptive hearts, therein to swim, plunge, and ultimately, dive for the coral and pearls of some deeper meaning. It has the ability and power to express essence, beauty, love, and a host of other qualities. For this I continually strive. I hope someday to attain it.

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