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Rooftops of Tehran Paperback – March 1, 2008

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Editorial Reviews


In Rooftops of Tehran Sholeh Wolpé condemns injustices through the highlighted experiences of others – especially women – by bringing into focus realities that are difficult to comprehend even from the safe distance of Anchorage, Seattle, Los Angeles, New York, or London. Wolpé walks an internal-external tightrope that is made all the more powerful when held against the tidal tensions between Washington and Tehran. But the context is impossible to ignore, and largely because of the beauty Sholeh Wolpé draws from within it, Rooftops of Tehran is an uncommon achievement in contemporary American poetry – it is a book that actually matters.

–Jeremy Edward Shiok

"In a world where cultures and religions are recklessly facing off,
Sholeh Wolpe writes careful poems that cast a light on some
of what we all hold in common."   Billy Collins


Sholeh Wolpé’s Rooftops of Tehran is that truly rare event: an important book of poetry. Brushing against the grain of Persian-Islamic culture, she sings a deep affection for what she ruffles. Her righteous aversion to male oppression is as broad as the span from Tehran to LA, as deep as a wise woman’s heart. This is a powerful, elegant book.
—Richard Katrovas, author of Prague Winters and The Years of Smashing Bricks

In Sholeh Wolpé’s Rooftops of Tehran, an unforgettable cast of characters emerges, from the morality policeman with the poison razor blade to the crow-girls flapping their black garments, from the woman with the bee-swarm tattoo emerging from her crotch to the author as a young girl on a Tehran rooftop with a God’s eye view “hovering above a city / where beatings, cheating, prayers, songs, / and kindness are all one color’s shades.” Here is a delicious book of poems, redolent of saffron and stained with pomegranate in its vision of Iran and of the immigrant life in California. Wolpe’s poems are at once humorous, sad and sexy, which is to say that they are capriciously human, human even in that they dream of wings and are always threatening to take flight.
—Tony Barnstone, award winning poet and translator, author of The Golem of Los Angeles

A stark and wondrous journey through and beyond the worlds looming on top of the aching roofs of Tehran, the poems in this collection are as vibrant as they are brave. Sholeh Wolpé poetry proves to be rumination, prayer, song. This book is an irresistible unrest.
—Nathalie Handal, author of The Lives of Rain and co-editor of Language for a New Century: ContemporaryPoetry from the Middle East, Asia & Beyond

About the Author

Sholeh Wolpé is the author of Sin—Selected Poems of Forugh Farrokhzad  (University of Arkansas Press), Rooftops of Tehran (Red Hen Press), The Scar Saloon (Red Hen Press), Shame (a play in three acts) and a Poetry CD (Refuge Studios). Her Poems, translations, essays, and reviews have appeared in scores of literary journals, periodicals and anthologies worldwide, and have been translated into several languages. She was born in Iran and presently lives in Los Angeles, California.


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 112 pages
  • Publisher: Red Hen Press; 1 edition (March 1, 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1597091103
  • ISBN-13: 978-1597091107
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 0.4 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,797,629 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Sholeh Wolpé is a poet, writer, editor, and literary translator. She was born in Iran and spent most of her teen years in Trinidad and the UK before settling in the United States.

A recipient of the 2013 Midwest Book Award and 2010 Lois Roth Persian Translation prize, Wolpé is the author of three collections of poetry and two books of translations, and is the editor of three anthologies.

The Poetry Foundation has written that "Wolpé's concise, unflinching, and often wry free verse explores violence, culture, and gender. So many of Wolpé's poems deal with the violent situation in the Middle East, yet she is ready to both bravely and playfully refuse to let death be too proud."

Wolpé's first collection, The Scar Saloon, was lauded by Billy Collins as "poems that cast a light on some of what we all hold in common." Poet and novelist Chris Abani called the poems "political, satirical, and unflinching in the face of war, tyranny and loss . . . they transmute experience into the magic of the imagined."

The poems in Wolpé's second collection, Rooftops of Tehran, were called by poet Nathalie Handal "as vibrant as they are brave," and Richard Katrovas wrote that its publication was a "truly rare event: an important book of poetry."

In response to Wolpé's most recent collection of poems, Keeping Time With Blue Hyacinths (2013), Shelf Awareness Magazine wrote that "a gifted Iranian-American poet beautifully explores love and the loss of love, beauty and war and the ghosts of the past."

Wolpé's translations of the iconic Iranian poet Forugh Farrokhzad's selected work was awarded the prestigious Lois Roth Persian Translation Award in 2010. The judges wrote that they "found themselves experiencing Forugh's Persian poems with new eyes." Alicia Ostriker praised the translations as "hypnotic in their beauty and force." Willis Barnstone found them "extravagantly majestic," and of such order that "they resurrect Forugh."

Wolpé and Mohsen Emadi's translations of Walt Whitman's Song of Myself (آواز خويشتن) were commissioned by the University of Iowa's International Program. They are currently on University of Iowa's Whitman website and will soon be available in print in Iran.

Wolpé's anthologies have received critical acclaim, as well. Robert Olen Butler lauded Breaking the Jaws of Silence as "a deeply humane and aesthetically exhilarating collection." The Forbidden: Poems from Iran and Its Exiles, a recipient of the 2013 Midwest Book Award, includes many of Wolpé's own translations, and was called by Sam Hamil a "most welcome gift" that "embraces and illuminates our deepest human bonds and hopes." Joy Harjo wrote, "What demon can withstand against these beautiful and truthful singers? What heart will not open when they hear these poems?"

Wolpé's Iran Edition of the Atlanta Review became that journal's best-selling issue; the poet is also a regional editor of Tablet and Pen: Literary Landscapes from The Modern Middle East (edited by Reza Aslan), and a contributing editor of the Los Angeles Review of Books.

Wolpé's writings have been translated into several languages and her work is included in numerous American and international anthologies of poetry and fiction. She has taught poetry and literary translation at Stonecoast's MFA program and has participated in many festivals, international programs, and university events. For more information about Sholeh Wolpe please visit:

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

0 of 2 people found the following review helpful By T. Ejtemai on March 15, 2010
Format: Paperback
Wolpe's poetry is beautifully written, without pomp and arrogance. I couldn't put it down, nor did I want to. She writes in a voice with which people can truly identify, regardless of race, nationality, gender, or creed. She speaks from the heart with familiarity and eloquence all at the same time, creating a volume of poetry accessible to the masses.
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