June 13, 2010

Forugh Farrokhzad

Forugh Farrokhzad [Iran]

One of the major poets of Iran, Forugh Farrokhzad attended school in Tehran without finishing her diploma. At sixteen she was unhappily married, and was soon divorced, giving birth to a son, who remained the custody of her husband.

Writing poetry since the age of fourteen, Farrokhzad concentrated on her art, traveling to Italy, Germany, and England, which, in turn, highly influenced her work. She also turned to film-making, producing a documentary for UNESCO in 1965.

Her first collection of poetry, Asir (The Captive) appeared in 1952, and she used that title also for her second collection of 1955. This second collection made her the topic of great scandal through Iran, since as a woman she wrote freely about sensuality and love. Over the next several years she produced further volumes, Divar (The Wail) in 1956, 'Osyan (The Rebellion) in 1968; and Tavvalod-e degar (Another Birth) in 1964. The last volume has been translated into English.

In 1967 Farrokhzad was killed in a automobile accident.


Asir (1952); Asir (1955); Divar (1956); 'Osyan (1958); Tavvalod-e degar (1964)


Bride of Acacias: Selected Poems of Forugh Farrokhzad, translated by Jascha Kessler with Amin Banani, with an Introduction by Amin Banani and Afterword by Farzaneh Milani (Delmar, New York: Caravan Books, 1982); Selections in Literature East & West, Volume 24 (1987).

Conquest of the Garden

The crow which flew over our heads
and descended
into the disturbed thought of a vagabond cloud
and the sound of which traversed
the breadth of the horizon like a short spear
will carry news of us to the city.

Everyone knows, everyone knows
that you and I have seen the garden from that cold sullen window
and that we have plucked the apple
from that playful branch beyond reach.

Everyone is afraid everyone is afraid,
but you and I joined with lamp, water and mirror
and we are not afraid.

I am not talking about the flimsy linking of two names
and embracing in the old pages of a ledger.
I'm talking about my fortunate tresses
with the burnt anemone of your kiss
and the intimacy of our bodies,
and the glow of our nakedness like fish scales in the water.
I am talking about the silvery life of a song
which the small fountain sings at dawn.

We asked wild rabbits one night
in that green flowing forest
and the shells full of pearls
in the turbulent coldblooded sea
and the young eagles
on that strange overwhelming mountain
what should be done.

Everyone knows, everyone knows
we found our way into the cold and quiet dream of phoenixes.
We found truth in the garden
in the embarassed look of a nameless flower,
and we found immortality in an endless moment
when two suns stared at each other.

I am not talking about timorous whispering in the dark.
I am talking about daytime and open windows and fresh air
and a stove in which useless things burn
and land which is fertile with a different planting,
and birth and evolution and pride.
I am talking about our loving hands
which have built across nights
a bridge of the message of perfume and light and breeze.
Come to the meadow
to the rand meadow and call me,
from behind the breaths of silk-tasseled acacias
just as the deer calls its mate.

The curtains are full of a hidden rancor,
and innocent doves look to the ground
from their white tower height.

Translated from the Farsi by Michael Craig Hillmann

Another Birth

My whole being is a dark chant
that perpetuating you
will carry you to the dawn
of eternal growths and blossomings
in this chant I sighed you, sighed
in this chant
I grafted you to the tree, to the water,
to the fire.

Life is perhaps
a long street through which
a woman holding a basket
passes every day
life is perhaps
a rope with which a man
hangs himself from a branch
Life is perhaps
a child returning home from school.

Life is perhaps lighting up a cigarette
in the narcotic repose between two love-makings
or the absent gaze of a passerby
with a meaningless smile and a good morning.

Life is perhaps that enclosed moment
when my gaze destroys itself in the pupil of your eyes
and it is in the feeling that I will put
into the Moon's impression of the Night's perception.

In a room as big as loneliness
my heart which is as big as love
looks at the simple pretexts of its happiness
at the beautiful decay of flowers in the vase
at the saplings you planted in our garden
and the song of canaries
which sing to the size of a window.

Ah...this is my lot
this is my lot
my lot is a sky that is taken away
at the drop of a curtain
my lot is going down a flight of disused stairs
to regain something amid putrefaction and nostalgia
my lot is a sad promenade in the garden of memories
and dying in the grief of a voice which tells me I love your hands.

I will plant my hands in the garden
I will grow
I know, I know, I know
and swallows will lay eggs
in the hollow of my ink-stained hands.

I shall wear twin cherries as earrings
and I shall put dahlia petals on the fingernails.

There is an alley where the boys who were in love with me
still loiter with the same unkempt hair, thin necks and bony legs
and think of the innocent smiles of a little girl
who was blown away by the wind one night.

There is an alley that my heart has stolen from the streets of my childhood.

The journey of a form along the line of time
and inseminating the line of time with the form
a form conscious of an image returning from a feast in a mirror.

And it is in this way that someone dies and someone lives on.

No fisherman shall ever find a pearl
in a small brook that empties into a pool.

I know a sad little fairy
who lives in an ocean
and ever so softly plays her heart into a magic flute
a sad little fairy
who dies with one kiss each night
and is reborn with one kiss each dawn.

Translated from the Farsi by Karim Emami with Farugh Farrokhzad

It Is Only Sound that Remains

Why should I stop, why?
The birds have gone in search of the blue direction.
The horizon is vertical, vertical,
and movement fountain-like,
and at the limits of vision shining planets spin.
The earth in elevation reaches repetition,
and air wells change into tunnels of connection.
And day is a vastness
which does not fit into the narrow mind of newspaper worms.
Why should I stop?

The way passes throughout the capillaries of life.
The condition of the planting envirnoment of the uterus-like moon
will kill the corrupt cells.
And in the chemical space after sunrise
there is only sound,
sound that will be dream to the particles of time.
Why should I stop?

What can a swamp be?
What can a swamp be
but the spawning ground of corrupt insects?
Swollen corpses scrawl the morgues' thoughts,
the unmanly one has hidden his lack of manliness in blackness,
and bugs...ah when bugs talk,
why should I stop?

Cooperation of lead letters if futile,
and cannot rescue miserable thoughts.
I am a descendant of the house of trees.
Breathing stale air depresses me.
A bird which had died advised me
to commit flight to memory.
The ultimate extent of all powers is union,
joining with the bright principle of the sun
and pouring into the consciousness of light.
It is natural for windmills to fall apart.
Why should I stop?

I clasp to my breast
the unripe bunches of wheat
and breastfeed them.
Sound, sound, only sound,
the sound of the limpid wish of water to flow,
the sound of the falling of starlight
on the layer of earth's femininity,
the sound of the binding of meaning's sperm
and the expansion of the shared mind of love.
Sound, sound, sound, only sound remains.
In the land of dwarfs,
the criteria of comparison have always traveled
in the orbit of zero.
Why should I stop?
I obey the four elements
and the job of drawing up the constitution of my heart
is not the business
of the local government of the blind.
What is the lengthy wild whimpering
in animals' sexual organs to me?
What to me
is the worm's humble movement
in the fleshy vacuum?
The bleeding ancestry of flowers
has commited me to life.
Are you familiar with the bleeding ancestry of the flowers?

Translated from the Farsi by Michael Craig Hillmann


from Let Us Believe in the Beginning of the Cold Season

And this is I
a woman alone
at the threshold of a cold season
at the beginning of understanding
the polluted existence of the earth
and the simple and sad pessimism of the sky
and the incapacity of these stone hands.

I am cold
I am cold and it feels like
I will never be warm again.

I shall give up lines
I shall give up counting, too.
And I shall seek refuge
from the finite geometric figures
in sensuous dreams of vastitude.
I am naked, naked, naked
I am naked as the silence between words of love
all my wounds come from love
from love, love, love.
I have steered the wandering island
through the revolutions of the ocean
and the explosion of the mountain.
Breaking apart
is the secret of the whole of existence
from whose smallest particles the sun was born.

Let us believe
let us believe in the cold season
let us believe in the runs of orchards of imagination
in abandoned sickles
and imprisoned seeds.
Look! What a heavy snow is falling...

Translated from the Farsi by Gita Tabatabai


"Conquest of the Garden," "It Is Only Sound that Remains," and "Another Birth"
Reprinted from Literature East & West. Copyright ©1987 Michael Craig Hillmann.
Reprinted by permission of Michael Craig Hillmann

"from Let Us Believe in the Beginning of the Cold Season"
Copyright ©2001 by Gita Tabatabai. Reprinted by permission of Gita Tabatabai.

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