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Sin: Selected Poems of Forugh Farrokhzad Hardcover – September 28, 2007
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"Sholeh Wolpé's translations are hypnotic in their beauty and force. This book will be treasured by readers who crave not a clash of cultures but a connection."
--From the foreword
"In a world where cultures and religions are recklessly facing off, Sholeh Wolpé writes careful poems that cast a light on some of what we all hold in common."
--Billy Collins, on The Scar Saloon
From the Publisher
A new collection from Iran's rebel woman poet, with a foreword by Alicia Ostriker, to be published on the 40th anniversary of Forugh Farrokhzad's death
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Based on other reviews, if you are a native Persian speaker concerned with exact authenticity in translation, you might have a few issues with this book.
If you are an English speaker who would like to be blown away by some amazing poetry and simply exquisite use of language, in this case the English language, you will never regret this purchase.
There have been far too many expatriate Iranians, especially women, who have cashed in on the anti Iranian propaganda and written skewed and slanted melodramas damning Iran and ignoring all but the the worst elements of that culture and society, leaving us to think that it is essentially reduced to a medieval feudal ignorant theocracy of religious fundamentalists and extremists, which bears little resemblance to Iran today. The post election fraud protest by millions of Iranians in Iran should have been enough to demonstrate to the entire world that we are not dealing with a subservient homogenous, monofaceted society, who have all bought in to the tenets of the IRI. There is only one motivation for painting Iran that way, which is to justify in the mind of the American public an invasion and recolonization.
I share the same motivation of the author, which is what drove me to write my own book about my experiences in Iran where I spent 5 of the most incredible years of my life. Three summers ago in 2008, I went back to Iran for the first time since the revolution and had an incredible awesome time and one of the goals of my trip was to visit the grave of Forough Farrokhzad at the Zahir Ol Dowleh cemetery which I did. That cemetery which amazingly belongs to a private family is filled with the graves of some of the best contemporary poets, writers and musicians of Iran. Niloufar Talebi with her Translation Project and others like the Houshang Golshiri Foundation have made it their mission to translate contemporary Persian authors into English. On my website I started to an album of photographs of as many contemporary writers and poets as I could find and it is over 356 so far of which only a handful have been translated into English. My friend Shahrnush Parsipur who is arguably the greatest living contemporary Iranian writer has only had three of her 13 novels translated.
Well about Forough. She makes me think of the expression "Only the good die young!" I can't picture her in old age, can you? She epitomized youth and its yearnings which is why she has such a great appeal especially with young ladies in Iran, many of whom know her poems by heart. You have only to mention her name and they begin reciting "In a room the size of one solitude."
Forough had a great courage when one reflects upon her affair with one of Iran's greatest film makers Ebrahim Golestan, who was married. Although in the West we pride ourselves as progressive versus Iran, sex scandals still hit the media hard on a regular basis. Her love was true and a thing of beauty not soiled like the affair of our former president. Forough had to put up with a lot of abuse from the double standard male dominated society to pursue her love and her artistic career. Her own son showed acceptance and love for her.
As far as her poetry, her metaphores are unbelievable. She feels and experiences what the rest of us know only intellectually that all things are connected at the molecular and spiritual level. When she swims in a pond or river, she and the water make love to each other, when the sun is setting, the sky and the earth merge in love. When she writes of happiness, we can feel it. When she writes of pain or loneliness we can feel it. When she writes of the discrimination women experience at the hands of men, we feel it. Her poetry seems so smooth and effortless as it conquers universes and challenges conventions and institutions in cosmic terms. In "If I were God" she talks of going to bed with Satan to protest prudishness. In "On Loving" the last lines tell us that she is fully aware of the vulnerability of love and accepts that the end of its road is not known but it needs no known ending, the purpose of love is love, like the Raison d'Etre, I think therefore I am.
Like so many other stellar personalities, she was a shooting star, whose short spectacular performance reached its climax and passed into eternity, like the girl in "Women Without Men" who first turned into a tree and then dissolved into a cascade of feathery seeds to be borne on the wind and the river to the four corners of the earth.
No wonder they refer to her as "The Eternal Farrokhzad"
My problem with the book is the political overtones that the translator introduces. Once again, she acknowledges this and actually states that her main reason for undertaking this translation effort is in response to Iran being labeled as part of the "Axis of Evil". She wants to make Iran more accessible and less intimidating to the West. However, she also ends the biography section by saying the Farrokhzad poetry was banned under the Islamic Republic which had no biographical merit as the poet passed away 12 years before the 1979 Revolution.
Farrokhzad's poetry is beautiful and while it is certainly meaningful to many Iranians in their current political situation, it seems like Wolpe is superimposing her interpretation of the poetry through her translation. Sometimes it feels like too much of her personality and her relationship with the poetry is coming through the poems. It can be very distracting.
Overall, the selection of poems is wonderful and the reader is able to see the growth of Farrokhzad as a poet throughout her short poetic career. It is a good effort and worth the read if only for the biography section.