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Tonight No Poetry Will Serve: Jahan Khajavi

Jahan Khajavi by Chiara Barzini

Tonight No Poetry Will Serve by Alfredo Jaar offers a powerful reflection on the limits of language and the role of creative expression in times of tragedy. A lament for today’s darkness and a call to find the words to confront these tragic hours, the bold new public intervention displays the arresting title of a poem by Adrienne Rich (1929–2012), a figure of inspiration for Jaar since the 1980s, who observed the limits of words in times of unthinkable violence: “no poetry can serve to mitigate such acts, they nullify language itself,” she wrote in 2011. Throughout November 2023, Alfredo Jaar and CIRCA commissioned a series of poetic dialogues, curated by Vittoria de Franchis, from international writers, thinkers and speakers. Giving voice to those who find themselves silenced or without words, the poems hope to achieve Rich’s ambition that creative expression can reconcile conflicting realities.


We are going through a very repressive moment, when nuance is lost and free speech is threatened. But I strongly believe that the spaces of art and culture must remain spaces of freedom. Artists will not be intimidated. In this environment, I have turned to the words of anti-war campaigner and poet Adrienne Rich to reflect both the limits of language and the frustration felt by many that voices for peace and justice cannot sound out as clearly as we wish. And, as part of the CIRCA commission, I am turning to today’s poets, writers, and artists, to support a forum for creative expression where the clear-sighted demands of humanity and empathy can be heard. In these times when politics have failed us miserably, art and culture are our only hope. Art is like the air we breathe, without art, life would be unlivable. Art creates spaces of resistance, spaces of hope.


AFTER THE FUNERAL… by Jahan Khajavi


After the funeral, I’m not looking to have fun.

Returned to this beach like water. You say, Hope you have fun!

Love can be conditionless—old as the Tiber,

moving yet not potable. I do have fun—

though it has never been the font for which I’m sprung.

The raise on debt for those, it seems, who have fun

like it’s champagne—a glass of which I don’t expect,

but if I’ve come to dine, I’ll gladly, too, have fun.

I’ll drink to your long life & spill some for the dead 

while knowing in the world, this moment, few have fun.


November 25 MMXXIII

San Francisco



Hand-signed limited edition print by Alfredo Jaar, £120+VAT. Proceeds will be donated to Médecins Sans Frontières/Doctors Without Borders. Available here.




Jahan Khajavi (1986, Fresno) composes & performs “wildly amusing & explicit queer poetry” (Vogue) with a recent debut collection Feast of the Ass (Ugly Duckling Presse) & a cotranslation with Tim Moore of Sleepless Traveler by Sandro Penna (NERO Editions). Jahan lives & works in Rome.