Contemporary Iranian Poetry

RevWEB1.jpgFor twenty-eight years since the 1979 Iranian revolution, a massive number of Iranians have immigrated to other countries. This resettlement has given birth to a new chapter in the history of Persian literature, one created in diaspora. The Persian literary community in diaspora is a vibrant and dynamic one. Generations of poets, carrying on the tradition of Persian poetry, have created work of significant literary value outside of Iran. Poets living in diaspora vary in age and stage of career; some were already established prior to the revolution, some were young poets then, while others in their twenties are just now coming into their own. Additionally, their immigration has occurred at different points during this twenty-seven year time span, a variable that in combination with their differing stages of career, has created a flourishing diversity of sensibilities and voices in these poets. They live the world over- from Slovakia to Denmark to the United States.

This literature has naturally diverged from that created in Iran, so much so that it has often been-controversially-dismissed in Iran for not being truly “Iranian.” Since for political, financial and logistical reasons, most of this work is not published or read in Iran, there is no continuity in documenting this body of work as a valid component of the whole of literary work created in the Persian language. Thus this literature of diaspora remains somewhat homeless in that it is scattered worldwide and has limited readership due to the lack of geographic and linguistic centrality.

However, it seems inconceivable that this poignant collected voice should gradually wane from the annals of history simply by the confluence of the above-mentioned factors. Should there not be a survey of this literature aside from the collections edited in Persian and outside of Iran-which again for various reasons may or may not make their way to a large readership? This poetry must reside on a global level especially since it has been born out of a political event not unlike many throughout the world. Of these poems, occasionally and unsystematically, some have been translated into other languages, and no effort has been made to create a comprehensive anthology in English, one of the foremost languages of the world today. English readers are exposed mainly to translations of Rumi, Hafez and Khayyam, but to these readers, the contemporary Persian poet remains unknown and invisible.

” I lived in Iran intermittently until I was fifteen. My most prominent memories of Iran are from the four tumultuous years that I lived in Tehran after the 1979 revolution, between 1980 and 1984. During this time of political unrest and war, we sometimes harbored poets and literary dissidents at our home. As a teenager, I found myself surrounded by inspired poets, passionately engaged in the creation of literature that spoke to and of the humanity of the situation at hand…poets feverishly writing, discussing or listening to Rachmaninov blaring from our gramophone. Their passion for life and commitment to literature surpassed their fear that the Islamic Police could raid our house at any time, attracted by the loud music. Some mornings at my house, clad in mandatory Islamic dress and on my way to school, I would tiptoe out, knowing that poets had been at work until the early morning hours and had recently collapsed from the exhaustion of all-night debates about religion, the Shah, Neruda, or fellow Iranian writers. These were artists who lived in exile within their own country. Many years later, I still find myself enthralled by artists in exile, voluntary or not. They are the lasting voice who as E. L. Doctorow put it, “…connect the invisible to the visible…singing the unsingable–who we are, what we are becoming…” The company I was privileged to keep during my youth has shaped my life. With The Translation Project, I wish to pay homage to those who endure. ” NT