Behbahani, Simin. Maybe It's the Messiah Shayad Ke-masee Hast: Guzide-ye Ashar (Abankadeh Publications, 2004).
One of Iran's foremost poets and among the few popular women poets, Simin Behbahani began writing poetry at age 14 and was first published in 1951. A nominee for the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1997, she was also awarded a Human Rights Watch-Hellman/Hammet grant in 1998, and similarly, in 1999, the Carl von Ossietzky Medal, for her struggle for freedom of expression in Iran. This volume serves as an excellent introduction to her work.
Behbahani, Simin and Farzaneh Milani. A Cup of Sin: Selected Poems (Syracuse University Press, 1999).
Just a generation ago the Persian sonnet ( ghazal) was regarded as dead and buried as a poetic form. Now, and thanks to Simin Behbahani, the ghazal is not only alive but rejuvenated. Ms. Behbahani shows that the most modern themes could still be effectively and beautifully handled by a poetic form that dates back to almost 11 centuries ago, making " modern Persian" the oldest language of the world still in daily use. Ms. Behabahani was one of few poets of her generation who refused to fall for the fashionable forms of poetrty, mostly imported from France and propagated by public relations masters such as trhe late Ahmad Shamlou. She avoided vers libre and prose-poems and other gimmicks and concentrated on retooling the Persian classical prosody in the service of new needs and feelings. She has never looked back. Behbahani is one of the most significant poets writing in any language today. She deserves to be read and re-read. What we need is more translations of her work not only in English but also in other major languages. (Amazon reader)
Farrokhzad, Forough. Translated by: Sholeh Wolpe. Sin: Selected Poems of Forugh Farrokhzad (University of Arkansas Press, 2007).
For the first time, the work of Iranian poet Forugh Farrokhzad is being brought to English-speaking readers through the perspective of a translator who is a poet in her own right, fluent in both Persian and English and intimately familiar with each culture. Sin includes the entirety of Farrokhzad's last book, numerous selections from her fourth and most enduring book, Reborn, and selections from her earlier work and creates a collection that is true to the meaning, the intention, and the music of the original poems.
Farrokhzad was the most significant female Iranian poet of the twentieth century, as revolutionary as Russia's Akhmatova and Tsvetaeva and America's Plath and Sexton. She wrote with a sensuality and burgeoning political consciousness that pressed against the boundaries of what could be expressed by a woman in 1950s and 1960s Iran. She paid a high price for her art, shouldering the disapproval of society and her family, having her only child taken away, and spending time in mental institutions. Farrokhzad died in a car accident in 1967 at the age of thirty-two. Sin is a tribute to the work and life of this remarkable poet.
Kalbasi, Sheema. The Poetry Of Iranian Women (CreateSpace, 2009).
The voice that comes through this book is daring rather than desperate, decisive rather than doleful, and fairly composed, given the constraints that govern the lives of the featured poets, as women and as artists.
Kalbasi, Sheema. Echoes in Exile (P.A.R. Publishers, 2006).
Echoes in Exile is a rich collection of poetry describing Iran and Middle Eastern politics. The poems are intimate, painted in a form that makes the unthinkable familiar. Sheema Kalbasi is the first poet of Middle Eastern heritage who demonstrates her concerns for the mistreatments of religious and ethnic minorities. She humanizes the Iranian people to the international community. This book can be viewed as a memoir and be displayed alongside Azar Nafisi's Reading Lolita in Tehran or Marjan Satrapi's Persepolis. Sheema believes that in light of the current political situation between Iran and the United States her words bring an important message to be shared by both cultures. Her work as a poet and translator confirm that the beauty and strength to convey the vast spectrum of emotions through language are exclusive to no country or culture.
Karim, Persis and Mohammad Mehdi Khorrami. A World Between: Poems, Short Stories and Essays by Iranian Americans (George Braziler, 1999).
This collection is the first published anthology of writings by Iranian immigrants and first generation Iranian Americans. Wide ranging and deeply personal, these pieces explore the Iranian community's continuing struggle to understand what it means to be Iranian in America. The selections come together to present a rich, humanizing portrait of a growing community Americans tend to view negatively. Many are intimate reflections on the pain of being alienated from the language, history, and geography of one's childhood. Others grapple with the complexities of cultural and personal identity. Iranian Americans, like any other immigrant community, must face the ongoing negotiation between past and present, their native home and their adopted home. A World Between gives voice to their unique and moving stories.
Keshavarz, Fatemeh. Recite in the Name of the Red Rose (University of South Carolina Press, 2006).
Recite the Name of the Red Rose introduces Western readers to constructions of the sacred in twentieth-century Iranian poetry. Sifting through the lives and writings of modern and classical poets, Fatemeh Keshavarz provides a systematic examination of the array of religious impulses in recent Persian verse. Viewing poetry as the site of the emergence of the self and the sacred, she confirms that sanctification is not static in its forms but continuously in flux and that the poetic modes used to articulate the sanctified are equally fluid. Keshevarz begins by introducing the core concepts that define and detach religion and secularity in contemporary Iranian society. By thoroughly discussing the nature of classical Persian poetry she makes clear that expressions of the sacred in verse have been open to negotiation and change even in the premodern period. In Iran’s modern poetic landscape however, Keshavarz uncovers many new patterns of expressing the sacred. In individual chapters on the writings of Forugh Farrokhzad (1935–1967), Sohrab Sepehri (1928–1981), and Ahmad Shamlu (1925–2000), she discusses the paradigmatic ways prominent poets of the twentieth century have related to the sacred in a nation forging its vision of modernity. While most scholars perceive current Iranian culture to be sharply divided between literalist conservatives and secular progressives, Keshavarz identifies provocative shades of spiritual expression less rigidly defined and hence neglected by the established critical tradition. Bringing such expression to the fore of scholarly attention, her study invites a more nuanced appreciation of the crosscurrents of religion and literature in recent Middle Eastern culture
Kianush, Mahmud. Of Birds and Men: Poems from a Persian Divan (Rockingham Press, 2004).
Poetry for Mahmud Kianush is the language of the childhood of historical man. He believes the first human beings began to understand the universe and their own existence by the poetical interpretation of everything they saw and felt, and that this is what real poets have always done - and will always do.
In a country like Iran, where since the late nineteenth century people and particularly the intelligentsia have been possessed by the politics of freedom and social change, Kianush is prominent among the few poets who have not sacrificed the universal principles of the art of poetry for the pleasure of temporal popularity. He agrees with the ancient idea that man is a political animal', but he adds that man must remain faithful to his primordial nature and first be a poet.
Kianush, Mahmud. Modern Persian Poetry (Rockingham Press, 1996).
Iran and the Persian language have a rich poetic heritage, extending from a thousand years from the classical era of the 10th - 17th centuries into present day. The greatest influence on modern Persian poetry was Nimâ Yushi (1896-1959) whose revolutionary innovations in form and style still influence the poets of today, although the traditional forms - particularly the gazal, ghasideh and robâ'i continue to be used. Among modern poets, however, social and political themes have been prominent and there have been many notable women poets.
Modern Persian poetry includes 129 poems by 43 poets writing at all periods of the 20th Century.
Papan-Matin, Firoozeh. Love Poems of Ahmad Shamlu (Ibex Press, 2005).
Ahmad Shamlu (1925-2000) is among the most celebrated figures of contemporary Iranian literature. The poems presented here, capture ShamluÂ’s unique depictions of love. The narrator in these poems is a man intoxicated by the love of a woman; a woman whom we meet in the body of his love poetry; a female presentation whose characteristics are not fixed.
Due to Shamlu's widely recognized prominence within the intellectual opposition, the mainstream approach to his poetry has largely evaluated it in terms of the socio-political background of the poet's era. Taking issue with this limiting approach, the present work emphasizes an alternative reading of Shamlu, based on a primarily aesthetic analysis of the theme of aphrodisiac love in his poetry. More specifically, the present text is focused on the poet/lover's meditation on a beloved elevated to the stature of a goddess. This woman's metaphoric identity casts her as the muse and the audience. She is, with all her attendant dangers, the poet's realization of beauty and desire for being.
The Love Poems of Ahmad Shamlu incorporates poems that trace the development of the relationship among the lover, the beloved, and love, in ShamluÂ’s poetry. The selection includes poems that go back to the beginning of ShamluÂ’s career when he was still experimenting with language and style in search of his own poetic voice. The chapters preceding the poems in translation, provide some insight into the life of Shamlu as well as his poetry.
This work has valuable scholarly and pedagogic implications. While it is a contribution to the scholarship on the work of Shamlu, it also provides a concise translated collection that can be useful for students of Persian language and literature. This work can also serve as a textbook for courses in comparative and Persian literatures. Considering the growing interest in Persian poetry during the recent years, this book will further be of interest for audiences beyond speakers of Persian.
Saeedpour, Saeed. Modern Iranian Poetry (IUniverse, 2001).
Classical Iranian poetry is known and appreciated in the West. Scholars like FitzGerald, Brown, Arberry and Nickelson have presented the poetry of Ferdowsi, Khayyam, Rumi and Hafiz, with relative success, in English. Why not Modern Iranian Poetry?
Is that because our modern poems lack the appeal of the classical Persian verse? Or because e previous translations of Iranian new poetry have been inadequate? Whatever the reason, the fact remains that contemporary Iranian poetry is alive and well today in Iran, and numerous poetry selections, collections, and anthologies are published and sold out each year and works of analysis and criticism of new poetry are in great demand.
Modern Iranian poetry originates with Nima Yushij, who broke the stale conventional forms and meters, introduced variable rhythms and music, and expanded poetic idiom and diction, thus creating new modes of lyrical expression along with a fresh poetic vision.
After him some poets gradually moved toward free verse and tonal language. It seems our new poetry is moving increasingly away from rhetorical devices, and closer to colloquial idiom and a lyrical sensibility fused with social, historical and philosophical awareness.
My choices for this book are mostly lyrics, as this mode has the highest degree of universality. Hence Wordsworth's definition of lyrical poetry as the spontaneous overflow of powerful emotions recollected in tranquility. My hope is that books such as this may build a bridge of cultural communication and understanding between the two cultures, helping the cause of dialogue among civilizations.
Sedarat, Roger. Dear Regime: Letters to the Islamic Republic (North Atlantic, 2008).
Recent political developments, including the shadow of a new war, have obscured the fact that Iran has a long and splendid artistic tradition ranging from the visual arts to literature. Western readers may have some awareness of the Iranian novel thanks to a few breakout successes like Reading Lolita in Tehran and My Uncle Napoleon, but the country's strong poetic tradition remains little known. This anthology remedies that situation with a rich selection of recent poetry by Iranians living all around the world, including Amir-Hossein Afrasiabi: “Although the path / tracks my footsteps, / I don’t travel it / for the path travels me.” Varying dramatically in style, tone, and theme, these expertly translated works include erotic divertissements by Ziba Karbassi, rigorously formal poetry by Yadollah Royaii, experimental poems by Naanaam, powerful polemics by Maryam Huleh, and the personal-epic work of Shahrouz Rashid. Eclectic and accessible, these vibrant poems deepen the often limited awareness of Iranian identity today by not only introducing readers to contemporary Iranian poetry, but also expanding the canon of significant writing in the Persian language.
Talebi, Niloufar. Belonging: A New Poetry by Iranians Around the World (North Atlantic Books, 2008).
Recent political developments, including the shadow of a new war, have obscured the fact that Iran has a long and splendid artistic tradition ranging from the visual arts to literature. Western readers may have some awareness of the Iranian novel thanks to a few breakout successes like Reading Lolita in Tehran and My Uncle Napoleon, but the country's strong poetic tradition remains little known. This anthology remedies that situation with a rich selection of recent poetry by Iranians living all around the world, including Amir-Hossein Afrasiabi: “Although the path / tracks my footsteps, / I don’t travel it / for the path travels me.” Varying dramatically in style, tone, and theme, these expertly translated works include erotic divertissements by Ziba Karbassi, rigorously formal poetry by Yadollah Royaii, experimental poems by Naanaam, powerful polemics by Maryam Huleh, and the personal-epic work of Shahrouz Rashid. Eclectic and accessible, these vibrant poems deepen the often limited awareness of Iranian identity today by not only introducing readers to contemporary Iranian poetry, but also expanding the canon of significant writing in the Persian language. Belonging offers a glimpse at a complex culture through some of its finest literary talents.
Wolpe, Sholeh. Rooftops of Tehran (Red Hen, 2008).
Sholeh Wolpe’s Rooftops of Tehran is that truly rare event: an important book of poetry. Brushing against the grain of Persian-Islamic culture, she sings a deep affection for what she ruffles. Her righteous aversion to male oppression is as broad as the span from Tehran to LA, as deep as a wise woman’s heart. This is a powerful, elegant book.
(Richard Katrovas, author of The Years of Smashing Bricks and Prague Winters)
Wolpe, Sholeh. The Scar Saloon (Red Hen, 2004).
Sholeh Wolpe’ s poems are political, satirical, and unflinching in the face of war, tyranny and loss. Talismanic and alchemical, they attempt to transmute experience into the magic of the imagined. But they also dare to be tender and funny lyrical moments. This book is remarkable and unexpected. (Chris Abani)
The Scar Saloon is a humane and compassionate book in which horror is balanced by love, pain by pleasure, denial by sensuality, seriousness with humor. Many of the poems are set in the Middle East, but Sholeh Wolpe’s clearly a poet of the world. (Charles Harper Webb)