Brief history of Forugh Farrokhzad with some extracts from her work
Forugh Farrokhzad, who had published three books of poems, The Captive (Asir), The Wall (Divar), and Rebellion (Osyan), was influenced for a good part of her poetical life by a number of different poets, especially Tavallali, Naderpur, Nosrat Rahmani, and later, Yadollah Roya'i. But in subject matter, she was daring and brave enough to express the hidden feelings and emotions of the Iranian women. Her earlier poems were weak in form and without much originality in imagery, but they clearly reflected the sorrows and the aspirations of contemporary Iranian young women, who felt "drowned in [their] innocent youth" and confined to a repressed life behind the curtains of traditions. She knew that young women like her wished to free themselves from the prison of veiled chastity and forced modesty, and to shout out, among other things, their natural desires:
I want you, and I know
That I can never take you in my arms;
You are like that clear, bright sky,
And I am a captive bird in this cage.
Her first step of rebellion in real life was to separate from her husband, whom she had married at the age of sixteen as arranged by her parents. Being a divorced mother at the age of nineteen, it was very agonizing for her to pass through this stage of liberation. In a poem entitled 'The Demon of the Night', reproaching her for the sin she has committed, the evil spirit of darkness, says to her "I am a demon, but you are a worse demon than I!/ A mother, and yet unchaste? Oh! how dare you to let the poor pure child/ lay his head on your stained lap!" And then, in another poem entitled "The Deserted Home", she admits that, by leaving her husband and her only child, she has deprived their home of "the happiness of life" and says: "I know that now a child is crying,/ full of sorrow of separation from his mother;/ But, wounded at heart and distressed, I am on the path of my desire./ My friend and my beloved is poetry/ And I go to find it."
The second great step Farrokhzad took, this time in her artistic life, was to free herself from the fascinating influence of the romantic Neo-classicist poets, and even of imitating Nima Yushij's innovations in rhythm and style. In an interview published in the literary periodical Arash, and reprinted as a foreword to her Selected Poems, she had said: "He [Nima Yushij] was my guide, but I was the maker of myself. I have always relied on my own experiments. I should have discovered how Nima managed to reach his new language and form. If I had not discovered this, I would have come to nothing. I would have become an imitator without consciousness. I should have made my own journey, that is to say I should have lived my life."
When her rebellion against traditional values, and social old norms had gone far enough to give her the freedom of personality for which she had long fought, Forugh Farrokhzad began her real journey in the realm of selfhood. It was then that she stopped writing poems which were the plain cries of an unhappy woman, despised by society, and sometimes very close to erotica:
In the silence of the temple of desire
I am lying beside your passionate body;
My kisses have left their marks on your shoulders
Like fiery bites of a snake.
("The Song of Beauty", Rebellion)
It was then that she was born again, both in her world view and in her poetry. Her friendship with a number of modernist poets and erudite intellectuals, like Yadollah Roya'i, Ahmad Shamlu, Ebrahim Golestan, Parviz Dariyush, and Ahmad Reza Ahmadi, encouraged her to find a quite different poetical vision. Now she could say: "poetry is a serious matter for me. It is a responsibility which I feel I have to my own individuality. It is some sort of answer which I should give to my life." From then on, instead of standing against society, she tried to understand it; instead of being the voice of her individual world, she became conscious of the great common spirit of mankind. Her poems, while simple and fluid in their language and imagery, found a new depth and a rather philosophical tone.
They were drowned in their own fear
And the frightened sense of sin
Their blind, dumb souls ...
Behind their crushed eyes, at the depth of inanimateness,
Something confused, with a flicker of life,
Was still left;
And, with its faint effort,
It wanted to believe in the purity of the waters' songs.
Perhaps; but what an infinite emptiness!
The sun was dead,
And no one knew
That the name of the sad dove,
Which had escaped from hearts, was Faith.
("The Earthly Verses", Born Again)
In her poems of this new period, rhyme lost its aesthetic function and what replaced it was the music felt in the meaning of verbs, which in Persian usually come at the end of the sentences (in her case at the end of lines and stanzaic paragraphs), and also, here and there, the prominence of nouns, adjectives and adverbs. In other words, she did not want to break the melodic flow of her sentences or lines with the repeated hammering of rhymes. As for rhythm, she began to use broken metres, sometimes letting a line lose the metre in one or two syllables, and then regain it. It may or may not have been deliberate, but it gives a fresh tone to the music of her poems, which is rather the music of thought than of words. Life, death, happiness, sorrow, the beauty of nature, the ugliness of social injustice, hope in love's triumph, despair caused by the force of ignorance and hypocrisy, and other notions and emotions, filled her poems with the spirit of reality, and still, now and then, she returned to the most powerful and the subtlest virtue of her poetic vision: the sacredness of womanhood and the mystical beauty of sex.
In1967, about four years after the publication of Born Again, Farrokhzad, who was happily enjoying her new life, died in a car accident. Her next book, Let Us Believe in the Beginning of the Cold Season, was published in 1975. On the strength of these two books she found a place among the great contemporary poets who have had an important role in the evolution of contemporary Persian poetry with their modernistic experiments in form, style and poetic perspective.
Farrokhzad's influence on many women poets, among them Shadab Vajdi, Maimanat Mir-Sadeghi (Azadeh), Zhila Mosa'ed, Mina Asadi", and others, was inspiring and constructive. Her poetic vision has continued to be one of the achievements of modernism in Persian poetry.
I WILL GREET THE SUN AGAIN
I will greet the sun again;
I will greet the streams which flowed in me;
I will greet the clouds which were
my lengthy thoughts;
I will greet the painful growth of poplars
Which pass through the dry seasons;
I will greet the flocks of crows
Which brought me, as presents,
The sweet smells of the fields at night;
I will greet my mother who lived in the mirror
And was the image of my old age;
And I will also greet the earth whose burning womb
Is filled with, green seeds by the passion she has
for reproducing me.
I will come, I will come,
I will come with my hair,
As the continuation of the smells of the soil;
With my eyes, as the dense experiences of darkness,
Carrying the bushes I have picked in the woodlands
beyond the wall.
I will come, I will come,
I will come and the entrance will be filled with love;
And at the entrance I will greet again
those who are in love,
And also the girl who is still standing
At the entrance in diffusion of love.
( 1933 - 1967 )
"Modern Persian Poetry"
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Copyright© 1998 K. Kianush, Art Arena