The title of my book Life is Perhaps was snatched from “Another Birth”,Â a poem by the most famous female poet Iran has ever produced – the tragic and sublimely talented Ms. Forough Farrokhzad.Â The following is excerpted from a biographical sketch by Melissa Barnhardt in Rozaneh Magazine:Â “The modern Iranian Poetess Forough Farrokhzad (1935-1967) virtually “opened the windows” of Iranian poetry to real relationships and the real world. While Persian poetry had already been somewhat liberated by the free verse of the 1920s, her frank presentation of feelings about loving, sexual relationships was revolutionary. She did the unthinkable, not only writing about intimacy in a predominantly Shiite Moslem society, but writing about it from an utterly honest, utterly feminine point of view. Without fear, she said what had always been forbidden, inwards that had never before appeared in a literary work…
Incredibly, her impressive ability caused initial shock to give way to the overwhelming admiration of the educated and the young. Secure in her voice, she broadened her concern to include natural, honest relationships within the Iranian social order. Finally, she began to emphasize a dialogue with the rest of the earth, and an openness to the entire natural universe, as her once specifically Persian images of fundamental relationship (the wall, the window, the mirror, the streets, and the garden and the sun, etc.) were suddenly galvanized with universal force.
Perhaps she dared fate by her extremely public living of a life that defied stultifying restriction. The daughter of a military colonel, she married at sixteen, published her first volume of poems at seventeen, gave birth to a son at eighteen, and was divorced before her twentieth birthday. Not long after the divorce she was prevented from seeing her son ever again. Her increasingly mature volumes of poetry included The Captive, The Wall, Rebellion, the important Another Birth, and the posthumously published Let Us Have Faith in the Beginning of the Cold Season. She studied film production as result of her liaison with the Iranian intellectual and film maker Ibrahim Golestan, and won the prize for documentaries at the 1963 Uberhausen, Germany Film Festival, with her film about a leper colony in Tabriz, Iran. In 1965, UNESCO produced a 30 minute film on her life, and Bernardo Bertolucci, a 15 minute film. In 1967, she was planning to play the lead role in a Tehran stage production of her Persian translation of Shaw’s St. Joan, when she met her untimely death in an automobile crash.”
The world awaits a seminal translation of Farrokhzad’s poems into English, but until that day here is a translation of an excerpt of “Another Birth” by Karim Emami:
My whole being is a dark chant
which will carry you
to the dawn of eternal growths and blossoming
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
who takes off his hat to another 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
which I will put into the Moon’s impression
and the Night’s perception.
In a room as big as loneliness
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 sapling you planted in our garden
and the song of canaries
which sing to the size of a window.
this is my lot
this is my lot
my lot is
a sky which is taken away at the drop of a curtain
my lot is going down a flight of disused stairs
a 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 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
a pair of twin cherries as ear-rings
and I shall put dahlia petals on my finger-nails
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
which my heart has stolen
from the streets of my childhood.
The journey of a form along the line of time
inseminating the line of time with the form
a form conscious of an image
coming back 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
which 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.