Political Poetry


Friday, December 21, 2007

Two émigré writers say that among the Iranian people, poets are the national heroes. But today’s Iranian artists struggle to express themselves in the face of government censorship. Reza Aslan is a religion scholar and wrote No God but God, a brief history of Islam and the West. Roya Hakakian is a poet and the author of Journey from the Land of No, a memoir of growing up in Tehran’s Jewish community.

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Reza Aslan and Roya Hakakian

Comments [9]


Reza: No doubt that you made a strong case with your argument about the revolution & Persian literature, but the world is not so black & white that you counted.
I absolutely agree with you about the extreme danger of mixing the art with politics. It would be the certain doom of a society, as we have a long history of that & in its most radical form in our contemporary era. This is exactly what’s happening in the US nowadays, and sooner or later the American society should come up with the sequenced repercussions of this ongoing tragedy.
I don’t know if you are living in Iran, Reza. If yes, may I ask you for your email address? We may meet for a much more healthy discussion together. Thanks.

Bar delam gard’e setamhast, khodaia mapasand
Ke mokkadar shavad aeineye mehr-aeinam

Jan. 29 2008 04:29 PM

Remember the flight
The bird is mortal

The end.

Jan. 29 2008 03:26 AM

Speaking of poetry, we have the content & the form. In Persian poetry, it is the content that in its expression finds itself in the monumental form of either poetry or prose. In other words, the content & meaning is prior to the form & cover. Our historic great poets just mobilized their language for keeping their thoughts alive for humanity, as they did and as the British scholars rightly grasp them. Have we ever noticed the close match between Iranian mystic knowledge and the basis of freemasonry? (Just with the unique exception of material gain--private enterprise).

At the end, it seems that these "lovely people" as HRK put it in his post are nothing more than politicized Americans (that by chance are Iranian-born) who would like to de-rate Persian literature to the cheap political codes of white or red rose, exactly the phenomena that someone like Forough was fatigued with.

HRK: You are either naïve or intoxicated with the second piece of poems by Forough (recited by Mrs. Hakakian which had a sense of romance with her personal experience). These are the people who think they are the axis of galaxy, but in reality they are only highly politicized agents who know how to boast of Iran while following the big brother.

Jan. 29 2008 03:26 AM

These lovely people try to introduce Farsi to non-Farsi speaking people with poetry. Of course Farsi is identical with poetry, but even those great British scholars who mastered the Farsi & greatly transliterated the Persian poetry to English, in a few cases were not even able to keep the meaning intact. It's not an easy task to introduce a language to the foreigners with a mean which is not reachable to them. Instead, we can directly speak of the language properties which are comprehensive to the others.

Have we ever noticed that in Persian language we don't have a feminine or masculine nomination? For the singular third person we say "Ou" that means both "He" & "She". For the "spouse" we say "Hamsar" which means "head mate" in English. In almost all of the languages of the world we have male & female nomination, even further for adjectives in many languages. Isn't it the evidence of a historic value among the Persian-speaking society that they have been respecting gender equality from long time ago? Isn't it the evidence that what is important for human being is how "ou" thinks, and not only if "ou" is female or male? Aren't these the witnesses of a long respected human rights culture?

Jan. 29 2008 03:25 AM

Mr. Aslan attribute the revolutionary period to an anti-imperialism wave, which is not true. The 78-79 revolution in Iran was an anti-monarchy social movement from its beginning to its end. However we had minor left groups such as Toudeh, Fadiyan & Peykar whose agenda was anti-Americanism, but they were only a tiny fraction of the whole social upheaval. If we remember, it was just after the victory that Ayatolah Khomeini told people: "Har che faryad darid bar sar'e Amrica bekeshid" or in English: "Flood the US with all your hatred", just because there was no shah in power anymore that people wanted to oust. And only from this point on we've heard this cry of: "Down with the America", up to now in Iran.

Mrs. Hakakian mentions her participation in rushing to US embassy in Tehran. We didn't know that she was one of the Students of Imam Line (with only 12 years old).
It doesn't seem to fit reality that she try to apologize hostages instead of those real SILs who were led to play their role.


Jan. 29 2008 03:24 AM

Lovely conversation with lovely people.

Jan. 27 2008 07:13 PM
Tim from Howell, Michigan

What was the piece of classical Persian music played at the beginning of the story. The music without singing or a voice? By whom? Is it available in the US commercially?

Dec. 23 2007 09:54 PM
Leital from Studio 360

Hi Tracy,
The name of the poet is Forough Farrokhzad. Here's her page on Wikipedia:

Thanks for writing!

Dec. 22 2007 05:06 PM
Tracy Zwick from New York

What is the name of the poet whose work Roya Hakakian recited? Thank you.

Dec. 22 2007 10:47 AM

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