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Belonging: New Poetry by Iranians Around the World (Scala Translation) Paperback – August 5, 2008
Say what one will about the Islamic Republic of Iran vis-à-vis its predecessor, the Pahlevi monarchy, it is no bastion of free speech. The 18 poets sampled in this dual-language anthology come from three generations and live in nine different Western countries. All left Iran permanently after the Islamic Revolution, the youngest well after. Together, they represent the flowering of modernism in Persian poetry. They write free verse that is imagistic, meditative, rhetorical, declamatory, and personal. Talebi has selected just a few pages of each poet to show his or her relationship to Iranian identity. Mina Assadi is tender, nostalgic, elegiac. Amir Hossein-Afrasiabi brilliantly captures the exile’s tentativeness in strange lands. Maryam Huleh rages over banishment with Ginsbergian fury. Jamshid Moshkani considers fear as the basis of human action, and not just for the isolated exile. There is some overt protest in this poetry as well as pain, endurance, and the longing to belong again physically as well as spiritually to Iran. --Ray Olson
“Niloufar Talebi’s accomplishment in gathering the poetry of the Iranian diaspora is unprecedented and breathtaking. It is as if she has, by force of commitment and vision, and by way of cultural hunger, bequeathed a new literary heritage to Iran and the world. Here is a lyric symphony of utterance in the voices of exiles, immigrants, refugees, and expatriates. That Talebi assembled such an extraordinary collection is impressive enough—that she translated most of these poems herself is nothing short of remarkable.”
—Carolyn Forché, editor of Against Forgetting: Twentieth Century Poetry of Witness
“In Belonging, with literary skill and passion, Niloufar Talebi has made a major contribution to the recognition of contemporary Iranian literature in the West, to the appreciation of diaspora poetry by Persian speakers everywhere, and to the important project of producing good translations from rich but underrepresented literary canons for the anglophone reader.”
—Nahid Mozaffari, editor of the PEN Anthology of Contemporary Iranian Literature
“Poetry is a world art because of brilliant editors and translators like Niloufar Talebi ... Here are the poets, in all their power, defiance, dignity, wildness, and lyric grace, scattered across the earth, yet united in this book. Here is proof that poetry humanizes: now contemporary Persian culture has a face, and the Persian tongue a voice, for those of us in the English-speaking world, and we are all richer for it.”
—Martín Espada, Pulitzer Prize nominee and author of The Republic of Poetry
“After reading her introduction and the first few sections of Belonging, I realized that Talebi had accomplished perhaps the greatest service that a translator of Iranian poetry for American audiences can provide: she made the Iranian poetic landscape feel familiar. Not only familiar, but modern, full of laughter, rich with wonder, completely joyful and terrible and worthy of revisiting multiple times."
—Peter Conners, Three Percent
“Niloufar Talebi has accomplished the ultimate magic trick in her clean and modern translation. She has made the work of modern Persian poets read like original English ... an unparalled contribution.”
—Willis Barnstone, author of With Borges on an Ordinary Evening in Buenos Aires
“The poems speak of lost places and missing people; of the fear and freedom that come with new surroundings; of love, sex, and passion; of prison and protest; of the commonplace and the universal; and of subjects classical, political, and taboo… In form and imagery these poems often allude to works of Persian classical literature, but they are also the heirs of Rimbaud, Lorca, Dante, Shakespeare, and the literatures of adopted countries… Talebi’s translation process included thorough review and collaboration with the poets themselves… While one can always find phrases with which to quibble, the translations are of consistently high quality… not only do the poems work in English, but they adhere closely to the originals in tone, content, and format.”
—Harvard Review Online Journal
“If you will trust me though, and don't want to read my justification, you can know that this is simply one of those books you need to have on your shelves, one you can look for and find at a party, and hand to one of your closer American friends and smilingly say, ‘Here Bradley, this will explain everything!’”
"This collection is impressive by making a good sample of contemporary Iranian poets in the diaspora so beautifully accessible to English readers and by presenting them so deservingly as a part of world literature today."
—World Literature Today Magazine
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BELONGING is a powerful book of courage and bravery, bringing a light on a culture that is judged so often, and misunderstood even more frequently. To know a people, is to know what causes their pain, grief, joy, and hope, and my belief is that once you know that you cannot go back to the fear that the unknown enjoys. Far from political, far from justification,defensive or offensive words, BELONGING is a union of Iranian voices from around the globe that shows the talent and beauty they bring especially as they are joined together.
I personally enjoy poetry, but not all of it. I love the modern, non-rhyming lines that actually don't choose their words based on what would make a meter or rhyme, but on what would convey the feeling and bring forth the meaning that is intended with their words. BELONGING is filled with that, with simple, modern, true, rough, and honest writing, I loved it! This is a book of truth, not over dramatization or draining emotional writing. It is poetry of the people and of words that we can all relate to.
Niloufar Talebi has joined together many Iranian authors from all around the world, translated their works and put them in a book called BELONGING, but that is not all she has done. There is an amazing art festival that will travel around the US to perform and bring awareness to the Iranian arts, it is called The Translation Project. It encompasses poetry, dancing, acting, and music, all a splendor of celebration and art from the Iranian culture.
Niloufar Talebi has done a tremendous, unprecedented service to the English speaking world with this collection of contemporary poetry, with such skilled translation, from a culture so steeped in poetic tradition and culture. The title of the book, Belonging, with its second sense emphasis on Longing for a homeland from which they've been exiled, is very indicative of the collection. The poetry flows from love to the plight of women in modern Iran to this tragedies of the Revolution to the emotions of displacement. Though I don't know Persian, the fact that the English lines sing and breathe with such power and grace is testament to Talebi's translation expertise.
I also had the privilege of seeing her multi-media theatrical component of the poetry, ICARUS/RISE. I highly suggest you check it out on the web at the translationproject dot org.