Myra here.

I am glad to be joining the Poetry Friday Community again this week, with special thanks to Carol’s Corner for hosting this week.

We are celebrating rebel women for the first quarter of the year; and what better poet to feature than the rebel female poet from Iran, Forugh Farrokhzad.

Sin: Selected Poems of Forugh Farrokhzad

Written by Forugh Farrokhzad Edited and Translated by Sholeh Wolpe
Published by University of Arkansas Press (2007)
ISBN: 1557289484 (ISBN13: 9781557289483)Literary Award: Winner of the 2010 Lois Roth Endowment Persian Translation Prize. Book was gifted to me. Book photos taken by me and edited using an iPhone app.

I learned about this title through its translator, the stunning and ethereal Sholeh Wolpe, who was one of the invited speakers for the Singapore Writers Festival in 2017.

Sholeh Wolpe noted that Farrokhzad was publishing poetry deemed as controversial and was subsequently banned in Iran, as early as the 1950s. When she read aloud from Farrokhzad’s poems that she has translated, I knew that it was a book I had to find and own.

Wolpe’s biographical notes in the beginning also provided a very helpful context to Farrokhzad’s life: how she was dismissed and patronized in the beginning, never really taken seriously; how she was perceived as some exotic, unfamiliar object – both desired and scorned for her faultless and irreverent verse; and how she struggled, as only a woman could, in a field that is dominated primarily by men, particularly in her culture.

The last paragraph in Wolpe’s extensive biographical note was particularly telling:

After the 1979 revolution in Iran, the new Islamic government officially banned Farrokhzad’s poems and her publisher was ordered to stop printing her books. He refused and subsequently he was jailed and his factory burned to ground.

There are three major sections in this collection: (1) Selected Early Poems, (2) Selected Poems from Reborn, (3) Let Us Believe In The Dawn Of The Cold Season. Admittedly, I resonated more with her personal work, the ones published much earlier, when she was just beginning to have a taste of verse and the power it wields.

Her more political verses, while I am certain are superbly crafted, went over my head – mainly because most of the allusions are lost on me. While Wolpe did a laudable job of providing notes and explanations in the end, I feel that I am missing out on so much because I am largely unaware of Iran’s history (only a peripheral knowledge of it) and sociopolitical reality.

Regardless, it was refreshing to witness Farrokhzad’s unfolding: her pain, rebirth, and capacity to reinvent herself; not to mention her determination to live life by her own rules, rather than pander to what society demanded and expected of her.

These are the last few lines that I wanted to share with you. I hope this inspires you to find this book and celebrate this woman’s fearless way of being.

#WomenReadWomen2019: 16 of 25 – Iran

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Myra is a Teacher Educator and a registered clinical psychologist based in Al Ain, United Arab Emirates. Prior to moving to the Middle East, she lived for eleven years in Singapore serving as a teacher educator. She has edited five books on rediscovering children’s literature in Asia (with a focus on the Philippines, Malaysia, India, China, Japan) as part of the proceedings for the Asian Festival of Children’s Content where she served as the Chair of the Programme Committee for the Asian Children’s Writers and Illustrators Conference from 2011 until 2019. While she is an academic by day, she is a closet poet and a book hunter at heart. When she is not reading or writing about books or planning her next reads, she is hoping desperately to smash that shuttlecock to smithereens because Badminton Is Life (still looking for badminton courts here at UAE - suggestions are most welcome).

4 comments on “[Poetry Friday] A Rebel Poet From Iran

  1. lindabaie

    My scarce knowledge of the Iranian revolution & the changes there come mostly from the book ‘Reading Lolita in Tehran’, & some news. These are powerful poems & heartbreaking, too Myra. I know that I may not be correct, but the line “no seeker will ever find pearls from a stream/that pours into a ditch” feels so poignant. Thank you for sharing this poet and book.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I’m constantly blown away by the courage and creativity of women around the world. My life seems so easy in comparison. And I still don’t write!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. When I saw you wrote about her, her name rang a bell and I checked to see if I had posted about her. I found it from 2013:
    She was a great rebel poet!

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Pingback: [Saturday Reads] My 2019 in Books: Favourite Reads Across Quarterly Reading Themes – Gathering Books

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