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Sholeh Wolpe
Sholeh Wolpe is a poet and literary translator.
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It has been a pleasure blogging for the Best American Poetry this week. As promised, here are two poems by Iranian poet Forugh Farrokhzad. Mates Night comes then darkness past night’s darkness-- eyes hands then, rhythmic breathing in – out in – out and the drip drop drip drop drip drop of water slipping from the tap then, two cigarettes two spots of glowing red the tick tick of a clock and two hearts steeped in loneliness... (from Sin: Selected Poems of Forugh Farrokhzad, translated by Sholeh Wolpe) Wind-Up Doll Even more, oh yes, one can remain silent even more. Inside eternal hours one can fix lifeless eyes on the smoke of a cigarette, on a cup’s form, the carpet’s faded flowers, or on imaginary writings on the wall. With stiff claws one can whisk the curtains aside, look outside. It’s streaming rain. A child with a balloon bouquet cowers beneath a canopy. A rickety cart flees the deserted square in haste. One can remain fixed in one place, here beside this curtain…but deaf, but blind. With an alien voice, utterly false, one can cry out: I love! In the oppressive arms of a man one can be a robust, beautiful female-- skin like leather tablecloth, breasts large and hard. One can stain the sinlessness of love in the bed of a drunk, a madman, a tramp. One can cunningly belittle every perplexing puzzle. Alone, occupy oneself with crosswords, content with unimportant words, yes, unimportant letters, no more than five or six. One can spend a lifetime kneeling, head bowed, before the cold altar of the Imams, find God inside an anonymous grave, faith in a few paltry coins. One can rot inside a mosque’s chamber, an old woman, prayers dripping from lips. Whatever the equation, one can always be a zero, yielding nothing, whether added, subtracted, or multiplied. One can think your eyes are buttons from an old ragged shoe caught in a web of anger. One can evaporate like water from one’s own gutter. With shame one can hide a beautiful moment like a dark, comic instant photo rammed deep into a wooden chest. Inside a day’s empty frame one can mount the portrait of a condemned, a vanquished, a crucified. Cover the gaps in the walls with silly, meaningless drawings. Like a wind-up doll one can look out at the world through glass eyes, spend years inside a felt box, body stuffed with straw, wrapped in layers of dainty lace. With every salacious squeeze of one’s hand, for no reason one can cry: Ah, how blessed, how happy I am! (from Sin: Selected Poems of Forugh Farrokhzad, translated by Sholeh Wolpe) Continue reading
Posted Nov 9, 2012 at The Best American Poetry
The 1979 Iranian revolution was a people’s revolution hijacked. Whether Muslim, Jewish, socialist or atheist, all fought side-by-side to end one tyrannical regime to only find themselves in the clutches of another, even more ruthless and oppressive. But in a country like Iran, literature, and particularly poetry, is like rain—it cannot be arrested. Vast umbrellas of censorship can be raised, people can be forced underground and into dungeons, but the water will eventually seep in, cleanse, nourish, and create a new landscape. In Iran’s Green Revolution we see signs of saplings that have broken through pavements and are growing fast in the streets and squares. Anthologies such, Let Me Tell You Where I’ve been (edited by Persis Karim), Strange Times My Dear (edited by Nahid Mozaffari), The Forbidden: Poem From Iran and It’s Exiles (edited by Sholeh Wolpé) and Tablet and Pen: Literary Landscapes From the Modern Middle East (edited by Reza Aslan) empower these saplings. This power does not just come from their fellow Iranians, rather it comes from all human beings in every corner of the world; it comes from readers like you who allow in your lives the transformative power of literature. In This Dead-End Road They sniff your breath lest you have said: I love you. They sniff your heart-- (such strange times, my sweet) and they flog love at every checkpoint. We must hide love in the backroom. In the cold of this dead-end crooked road they stoke their pyres with our poems and songs. Don’t risk thinking, for these are strange times, my sweet. The man who beats at the door in the nadir of night, has come to kill the lamp. We must hide light in the backroom. Those are butchers in passageways with their chopping blocks and bloodies cleavers. (Such strange times, my sweet) They hack off smiles from faces and songs from mouths. We must hide pleasure in the back room. Canaries are barbequed on flames of lilies and jasmines… (such strange times, my sweet) and the devil, drunk on victory, feasts at the table set for our wake. We must hide God in the back room. (Poem by Ahmad Shamlou, Translated by Sholeh Wolpé) From The Forbidden: Poems from Iran and It’s Exiles, (Michigan State University, 2012) Continue reading
Posted Nov 8, 2012 at The Best American Poetry
Today, I’d like to share with you a poem by Iranian poet Sohrab Sepehri (1928-1980), a gifted painter and poet who drew his images from eastern mysticism. I think it’s a fitting poem to read one day after the presidential elections. It’s a poem that in its own timeless way addresses many issues we grapple with today, issues such as the environment, United State’s foreign policy, and our sense of responsibility towards each other and towards our fellow human beings around the world. Continue reading
Posted Nov 7, 2012 at The Best American Poetry
At a time when literature and the arts, and just about everything else in Iran were dominated by men, when very few women were respected as poets, a young woman by the name of Forugh Farrokhzad (1935-1967) began writing and publishing poems that radiated with sensuality, pushing the boundaries of what could be uttered or put on paper by women. Continue reading
Posted Nov 6, 2012 at The Best American Poetry
Literature in translation is a tool necessary in building bridges that connect people of different cultures and religious persuasions. Continue reading
Posted Nov 5, 2012 at The Best American Poetry
Sholeh Wolpe is now following The Typepad Team
Nov 5, 2012