Haleh Liza is a poet, vocalist, translator, and educator, born in New York of Iranian descent.  She's inspired most by the poetic mysticism of her Persian heritage, the animist songs she discovered in the lush Amazon, and her literary and musical communities in Brooklyn.

Haleh is currently completing a series of poems and songs dedicated to the river she grew up on and is continuing her work on a translation project of Rumi poems. Her poems have been published by Columbia University Press, Rattapallax Press, Beyond Borders, and Howl.  She has recited her poems and translations at various venues including the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Fetzer Institute’s Gathering on Love and Forgiveness, Verses of Hope hosted by Brainpickings, and the Taos Poetry Festival.   She has led workshops in which she explores Rumi’s poetry and mystical themes that run through his work at Dartmouth University, University of Cincinnati, MCLA, and the Wanderlust festival.  

As a vocalist, Haleh enjoys singing in English, Persian, Spanish, Portuguese, and in no language at all, just open syllables.  With her current project and past projects, Haale and The Mast, she has played venues such as Lincoln Center Out of Doors Festival,  the David Byrne-curated series at Carnegie Hall, the Bonnaroo Festival, UNC Chapel Hill, Celebrate Brooklyn, PopTech, and the World Music Fest in Chicago. With longtime collaborator Matt Kilmer, she has shared the stage with artists such as Reggie Watts, Hugh Maskela, Salif Keita, Odetta, Blonde Redhead, and Steve Gorn.  She has released a number of albums to critical acclaim as both Haale and The Mast.  The Boston Globe called her 2008 release 'No Ceiling' "one of the most memorable releases of 2008...a swirling gem of an album." Her music has appeared in NBC's series "Life," CWTV's series "The Originals," and films including "Backwards," "Dog Sweat," and "My Teheran for Sale." 

Haleh enjoys facilitating singing and chanting circles in Brooklyn, in which she also shares mystical poems by Rumi to allow for open discussion between chants and songs.  She believes group singing strengthen bonds within community, fosters helming and joy, and enables us both to step out of the self and not the we,  and to dissolve in the beauty of sound and harmony.  

Haleh received her BS in Biology from Stanford U and her MFA from CCNY in Poetry, where she completed a thesis of original poems as well as translations of the Iranian poet Sohrab Sepehri, for which she received an Academy of American Poets Prize and the Goodman Grant for Poetry. 

Haleh lives in Brooklyn. 


Here's what's on my mind these days:

THREE RIVERS:

1- Hudson (beloved, polluted, polluted, and still beloved river of my life; dream axis through my elementary years; mirror of human recklessness and human resilience)
2- Amazon (river running through the green heart of the world)
3- Persian river of mystical poetry (guides that want us to soar)

What polluted the Hudson --a culture of consumerism, a lust for dominion, an addiction to adrenalin, a deep forgetting -- also left its mark on my psyche.  I went to the jungle perhaps to recover, to listen to the insect and bird polyrhythms and melodies, to soak in a subculture/superculture that carries a deep reverence for life.

Somehow my experiences in the Amazon resurrected my relationship with the mystical poetry of my Persian heritage and reinspired me to dive into the poems and the philosophy expressed through them. The medicinal, uplifting, and beautiful words and messages of my Persian ancestors have worked through me and continue to.

When I look upon the river I grew up on and the rivers of this world, many polluted by PCB's, CSO's, oil leaks, even radioactive tritium leaks, and when I consider the violence in this world, all the weaponry that’s created and sold, all the destruction that’s occurred in Africa and the Middle East so the Western world can secure oil and natural resources, I feel outrage and deep sorrow. For so long, I stuffed these emotions away and part of me turned to stone, part of me retreated into silence.

I can say I’m not there anymore, I’m not stone, and no part of me feels dead. It is a form of courage to feel the whole bandwidth of emotions, to quit numbing the self, to stay fully alive and feeling in this often baffling and terrifying world. And it is liberating to get to the roots of feelings. Underneath outrage is sadness and underneath sadness is an unmistakable fire of love that can drive even a stone to purpose.

This is the age of repair, not despair.

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