...it's not dark yet, but it's gettin' there...

March 16, 2005

Wednesday Is Poetry Day

The Iranian poet Forugh Farrokhzad (1933-1967) wrote about freedom using the imagery of erotic love. Although she died in a car accident before the Islamic Revolution, she still lived in a society where women's roles were strictly defined. Her poetry, after being banned for many years, is enjoying huge popularity these days in Iran.

Farrokhzad was a rebel who challenged cultural and political absolutism in her all-too-brief, 15-year literary career. She was a daring explorer of a public language of intimacy and transgression. The epitome of what the Islamic Republic wanted to eradicate, Farrokhzad is now the Iranian equivalent of a rock star. . . .

Her popularity is one of the many dizzying paradoxes any casual visitor encounters in Iran 25 years after the Islamic revolution. Iranian women can drive cars but cannot ride bicycles. They are on the world stage as Nobel Peace laureates, human rights activists, best-selling authors, prize-winning film directors and Oscar nominees -- yet they cannot leave the country without the written permission of their husbands. They are some of the most fashionable women in the world but must observe an obligatory dress code in Iran.

From The Washington Post

It's easy for me to imagine why Farrokhzad would appeal to the women of today's Iran. She challenged sexual mores by leaving her husband when she was twenty-one to be with her lover. What would the mullahs have done with such a poet, i wonder. Her writing is celebratory, unapolagetic, and very sexual.

I Sinned

Beside a body, tremulous and dazed
I sinned, I voluptuously sinned.
O God! How could I know what I did
in that dark retreat of silence?

In that dark retreat of silence
I looked into his mysterious eyes
my heart trembled restlessly
at the pleading in his eyes.

In that dark retreat of silence
I sat, disheveled, beside him
passion poured from his lips into mine
saved I was from the a agony of a foolish heart.

I whispered the tale of love in his ears:
I want you, 0 sweetheart of mine
I want you, 0 life-giving bosom
I want you, 0 mad lover of mine.

Passion struck a flame in his eyes
the red wine danced in the glass
in the soft bed, my body
shivered drunk on his breast.

I sinned, I voluptuously sinned
in arms hot and fiery
I sinned in his arms
iron-strong, hot, and avenging.

i am amazed at the new popularity of Farrokhzad's poetry. It's a good sign. In Reading Lolita In Tehran, Azar Nafisi writes about the oppressive ideological censorship under the mullahs after the Revolution:
Our world under the mullahs' rule was shaped by the colorless lenses of the blind censor. [Afisi notes that the chief censor, up until 1994, actually was blind.] Not just our reality but also our fiction had taken on this curious coloration in a world where the censor was the poet's rival in rearranging and reshaping reality, where we simultaneously invented ourselves and were figments of someone else's imagination.

. . .

In the course of nearly two decades, the streets have been turned into a war zone, where young women who disobey the rules are hurled into patrol cars, taken to jail, flogged, fined, forced to wash the toilets and humiliated, and as soon as they leave, they go back and do the same thing. . . . [H]ow vulnerable the Revolutionary Guards are who for over eighteen years have patrolled the streets of Tehran and have had to endure young women . . . walking, talking, showing a strand of hair just to remind them that they have not converted.

Forugh Farrokhzad is a heroine for this new generation of Iranian women, who long to be free.

Born Again

The clock flew away
The curtain went away with the wind
I had squeezed him
In the halo of fire
I wanted to speak
But, ohh!
His dense shady eyelashes
Like the fringes of a silk curtain
Flowed from the depth of darkness
Along the quiver, that deadly quivers,
Down the lost end of mine

I felt I was being freed,
I felt I was being freed,

I felt my skin burst in the expansion of love
I felt my fiery mass melt slowly,
And then it trickled
Down into the moon, the sunken, agitated dark moon

Wow. A poem about orgasm and its afterglow, yes, but it's really about revolution, isn't it?

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Posted by annika, Mar. 16, 2005 |
Rubric: Poetry


Excellent post, Annika. Your combination of the story, her poems and your comments proved to be very powerful.

Posted by: Jake on Mar. 16, 2005

Oh my goodness -- I'd never HEARD of her and I just love her. Thank you, thank you!

Posted by: Hugo on Mar. 16, 2005

If Uday or Qusay had ever read these, she'd have never seen her husband again.

Great pieces!

Posted by: shelly on Mar. 16, 2005

I need a cigarette.

Posted by: DBrooks on Mar. 17, 2005