Modern Persian Poets : A Study of the Persian Poetry
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Modern Persian Poets : A Study of the Persian Poetry

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Modern Iranian poetry has emerged as an integral part of Iran’s cultural life. The poets of Iran have long been revered for their ability to evoke a range of feelings and thoughts through the written word. Many gifted poets have emerged in the modern era, adding to Persian poetry’s long and illustrious history of great writers. In this article, we will discuss the poetry of Forugh Farrokhzad, Ahmad Shamlou, Sohrab Sepehri, Nima Yushij, and Simin Behbahani, five of the most well-known living modern persian poets from Iran today. To this day, poets and writers inside and outside of Iran look to the works of these poets as sources of inspiration.

Modern persian poets

Poetry from each of these five authors has its own distinct voice. For instance, Farrokhzad’s poetry frequently deals with the raw and passionate themes of love, desire, and femininity.

On the other hand, Shamlou is well-known for his political involvement and the way he used poetry to voice his disapproval of and criticism of established political and social order.

Instead, Sepehri’s poetry is distinguished by its intimate relationship with the natural world, whereas Yushij is regarded as the poet who introduced free verse and novel topics to modern Persian literature. Behbahani, the only woman among the five poets, was an outspoken supporter of women’s rights and is revered for her poetry that directly confronts conventional wisdom.

In this paper, we will discuss the poetry of each of these authors and provide a brief overview of their careers and most notable accomplishments. Examining their poems can shed light on how they influenced modern Iranian literature and culture. The primary purpose of this article is to celebrate the value of poetry and Iran’s distinguished literary tradition.

Forugh Farrokhzad

Forugh Farrokhzad (1935–1967) is widely regarded as a pioneering figure in modern Persian poetry. She was born in Tehran, Iran, to a strict Muslim household and was married off at 16 to a man who was more than a decade older than her. Farrokhzad married, but their union did not endure; they eventually divorced, and she went on to pursue a successful artistic career as a poet and filmmaker.

Forugh Farrokhzad
Forugh Farrokhzad

Poetry by Farrokhzad centers on love, desire, and femininity and is defined by its raw and emotional honesty. Her poems frequently questioned established gender conventions and sexuality norms, demonstrating her willingness to confront controversial subjects. Her ability to make the reader feel strong emotions via the use of straightforward language and descriptive images sets her work apart.

“Sin”, a poem written by Farrokhzad, was initially published in 1955 and has since become one of his most well-known compositions. The poem narrates the narrator’s internal conflict with her own sinful nature, and her wish to be spiritually pure. Sholeh Wolpe, the poet’s English translator, does an excellent job of preserving the original poem’s intensity of feeling and vivid imagery.

“I am sin, and the wage of my sin Is light, and the wage of my light is pain You are God, so where is my share of light? You are nothing, so where is my share of pain?”

Some of Farrokhzad’s other important works include the novels The Wall and Reborn and the poems Let Us Trust at the Beginning of the Cold Season. This 1961 poem celebrates the season of winter and the transformational power of nature. Ahmad Karimi-Hakkak has translated it into English, and his version retains the original’s evocative visuals and weighty themes.

“Let us believe in the beginning of the cold season We are the magi of this era In love with the secrets of snow.”

The impact of Farrokhzad on Iranian poetry and culture is immeasurable. Her poems, which often dealt with the poet’s own feelings and experiences, contributed to the development of a new style of poetry in Iran. As a writer and artist, her work was groundbreaking because it paved the door for other women to question gender norms and stereotypes in their own work. Today’s Iranian poets and authors still draw upon Farrokhzad’s heritage for inspiration. In 1965, two years before her sad Death in a vehicle accident at the age of 32, she won the Hedayat Award for Poetry.

Ahmad Shamlou

one of the modern persian poets, writer, and translator Ahmad Shamlou (1925-2000) is remembered for his political involvement and the way he used poetry to criticize societal and political structures. Born in Tehran, Iran, to parents who placed a high priority on learning and literature, he showed early promise as a poet.

modern persian poets
Ahmad Shamlou

Poetry by Shamlou is easily recognizable by its straightforward style and emphasis on social and political themes. His poetry frequently acted as a form of protest and dissent, and he was not hesitant to address taboo subjects like censorship, tyranny, and authoritarianism. His work is particularly renowned for the way he combines current themes and ideas with ancient Persian literary forms like the ghazal and the masnavi.

“Death Standing Guard”, a poem written by Shamlou, was initially published in 1961 and has since become one of his most well-known compositions. The poem’s narrator meets Death, who is posted at the cemetery’s entrance. Farzaneh Milani, who translated the poem into English, did a beautiful job of preserving the original’s evocative tone and force.

“Death stood there, tall and erect A face of fire and a body of stone He held a sword that glittered like ice In the grip of his hand as hard as bone”

Fresh Air, The Owner of the Narration, and “The Poetry of the Land of Nowhere,” often regarded as Shamlou’s best work, are some of his other significant works. This poem, originally published in 1964, has been translated into English by Farzaneh Milani and Ahmad Karimi-Hakkak to serve as a critique of authoritarianism and oppression.

“In the land of nowhere, Where the heart of a mother is empty, And the heart of a father is hopeless, And the heart of a child is innocent and mad”

Shamlou was a target of censorship and harassment due to his political activism and harsh criticism of the Iranian government. He faced multiple arrests throughout his career, ultimately leading to his 1977 exile. While he faced many obstacles, he never stopped publishing his poetry of protest and opposition.

Shamlou has made a huge impact on Iranian culture. A generation of Iranian activists and intellectuals were inspired and mobilized by his poetry, which focused on social and political themes. The discussion of democracy and human rights in Iran owes a great deal to his writings as well.

Over his life and work, Shamlou received various accolades, including the Nima Award for Poetry and the Goethe Prize. The Death of this 74-year-old poet and writer in 2000 has not diminished the impact he had on subsequent generations of Iranian authors and modern persian poets.

Sohrab Sepehri

Known for his innovative blend of literary and visual art, Iranian poet and painter Sohrab Sepehri (1928-1980) passed away in 1980. He was born in Kashan, Iran, to a family of intellectuals and artists who encouraged his early interest in writing and art.

persian poets
Sohrab Sepehri

Nature and its connection to human life are frequent themes in Sepehri’s poetry. He was profoundly impacted by the teachings of Zen Buddhism and other Eastern philosophies that stressed the interconnection of all things. The use of straightforward language and an emphasis on universal topics such as love, beauty, and spirituality characterize his poetry.

First published in 1965, “Water’s Footfall” is one of Sepehri’s most well-known compositions. The poem displays Sepehri’s appreciation for nature and its majesty by describing the speaker’s experience with water as it rushes through a stream. Kazim Ali and Mohammad Jafar Mahallati rendered the poem in English:

“Listen to the water’s footfall It’s saying, I am here, I am everywhere, In the dark, in the light, In the mountains, in the deserts, In the fields, in the cities, In the heavens, in the earth, I am in every heart, In every soul”

Besides “The Sound of Water’s Footfall,” another masterpiece, “The Green Volume” and “The Traveler” are Sepehri’s other well-known works. This 1967 poem contemplates the restorative influence of nature.

“Let me go, my heart, Let me go to the mountains, Where the pure air is, Where the pure water is, Where the earth is pure”

Something notable about Sepehri’s poetry is the poet’s use of straightforward language. He felt that poetry should not be the exclusive domain of those with a command of the literary language of the arts. Poems, he once observed, “should be written for everyone, not only for a privileged few.” This belief informs his straightforward style of writing.

Using straightforward and uncomplicated words, Sepehri expresses his awe at nature’s splendor in his poetry “I Have Seen the Water.”

“I have seen the water, The color of the sky in it, The shape of the wind in it, The secret of the sun in it”

Sepehri’s poetry reveals his conviction that all natural events are fundamentally interconnected. When he glanced out to sea, he saw a reflection of the sun, the sky, and the wind.

Sepehri’s paintings include mountainous, forested, and riverine settings because these elements reflect themes found in his poems. He believed that the two art forms might work together to reveal deeper truths about the world. His paintings, full of bright colors and simple compositions, are an ode to the beauty he finds in nature.

Sepehri received numerous awards for his life’s work, including the Hafez Award for Poetry and the National Prize for Literature. His writings have left an indelible mark on Persian literature, and he remains an inspiration to today’s Iranian authors and artists. He is widely considered one of the most important personalities in Persian literature and modern persian poets thanks to his unwavering belief in the power of nature and his skill at evoking that strength in his poetry and artwork.

Nima Yushij, main figure of Modern persian poets

Among Iranian poets, Nima Yushij is considered by many to be the genre’s progenitor. His revolutionary approach and subject matter influenced subsequent poets and altered the trajectory of Iranian literature. The Iranian poet began his career at an early age after his birth in the city of Yush in 1895. Although ancient Persian poetry was a major influence on his early work, he gradually evolved into a more contemporary and experimental style.

Simple, clear language and an emphasis on free verse were hallmarks of Yushij’s poetry. He strongly felt that poetry should be free from the confines of formal and structural conventions in order to be appreciated by a wide audience. His political and social views informed his poetry, and he frequently utilized them to condemn inequality and injustice in Iran.

Figure 4. Museum of Nima Yushij

“The Moon,” one of Yushij’s most well-known poems, is a seminal piece of Persian literature. The poem exemplifies Yushij’s free-verse style and his straightforward language:

“The moon is round, Like a sunflower, In the vast sky, It’s a bright mirror.”

Yushij’s trust in nature’s potential to uplift and inspire people is on full show in this poem. It’s a perfect example of his idiosyncratic use of language and contempt for more traditional forms of literature.

Works such as “Broken Songs,” “The Earth,” and “The Cry of the People” are considered to be among Yushij’s best. These works are remarkable for their innovative use of language and style, as well as the weighty social themes they raise. There are several additional awards that Yushij received because of the influence his poetry has on the Persian language and culture besides the Naderi Award.

One cannot exaggerate Yushij’s significance to modern Iranian poetry. He defied convention and established a new school of poetry that has gone on to influence countless poets. He popularized poetry to a wider audience by writing in free verse and using simple language. In his writing, he also railed against the political and social problems of his time and called for change.

Bibliography : Modern Persian Poets

Farrokhzad, Forugh. (2004). “Selected Poems.” Translated by Sholeh Wolpé. University of Arkansas Press.

Shamlou, Ahmad. (2012). “Contemporary Persian Poetry: A Collection of Poems.” Translated by Kamran Talattof and Jerome W. Clinton. Syracuse University Press.

Sepehri, Sohrab. (2014). “Water’s Footfall.” Translated by Kazim Ali and Mohammad Jafar Mahallati. BOA Editions Ltd.

Yushij, Nima. (1999). “The Reed Flute: Selected Poems of Nima Yushij.” Translated by Kaveh Safa and Sholeh Wolpé. Mage Publishers.

Behbahani, Simin. (2011). “A Cup of Sin: Selected Poems.” Translated by Farzaneh Milani and Kaveh Safa. Syracuse University Press.

Davis, Dick, and Kamran Talattof. (2000). “Modern Persian Poetry.” Syracuse University Press.

Rizvi, S. A. (2005). “The emergence of modern Persian poetry in Iran, 1921-1950.” Harvard University Press.

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