If this is life-how low! and I, how shamed, if I don't hang my lifetime's lamp high on the dusty pine of this dead-end lane. If this is life-how pure! and I, how stained, if I don't plant my faith like a mountain, eternal memorial, to grace this ephemeral earth.
Poetry From the July/August 2003 issue: Literary Border-Crossings In Iran
Ahmad ShamlouAhmad Shamlou
Ahmad Shamlou (1925-2000) is recognized as one of Iran's greatest modern poets, writing in the new mode of expression pioneered by Nima Yushij. Born into a military family, he spent an itinerant youth being transferred from one remote town to another, with schooling left unfinished. During World War II, he was arrested by the occupying Allied forces and imprisoned for supporting the German war effort. On his release a year later, he was arrested again along with his father, and together they faced a firing squad and last-minute reprieve. In the 1950s he spent six months in hiding and another year in prison for his support of Mossadegh's nationalist movement. Eventually, in 1977, political oppression moved Shamlou to leave Iran, and he lived for two years in Princeton and in England. Like so many who at first believed that the revolution heralded new freedom and stability, Shamlou returned to Iran in 1979.
Throughout these vicissitudes he wrote continuously. In addition to twelve collections of his own poetry published between 1948 and 1978, he has also written several plays and a major analytical survey of Iranian folklore Ketab-i Kucheh [Book of the Street], is the editor of an important edition of Hafez as well as other volumes of classical Iranian poetry, and has translated many French authors into Persian. Shamlou's third marriage lasted from 1964 until his death, and his wife Ayda figures prominently as the muse of many of his later poems.
Translated from FarsiFarsi by Zara HoushmandZara Houshmand
Zara Houshmand is an Iranian-American writer who was raised in the Philippines and received her BA in English Literature from London University. Her most recent book is A Mirror Garden (A. A. Knopf, 2007), co-authored with Monir Shahroudy Farmanfarmaian. Her poetry has been published in the anthologies Let Me Tell You Where I've Been (University of Arkansas Press, 2006) and A World Between (George Braziller, 1999) and in journals including Caesura, Persian Book Review, West Coast Line, Di-verse-city, and Texas Observer. Her play The Future Ain't What It Used to Be was produced at the Burbage Theatre in Los Angeles (1986). Her translations from the Persian received the first commissioning grant from the National Theatre Translation Fund, and have been published in numerous journals and anthologies including Literature from the Axis of Evil (New Press, 2006), Words Without Borders (Anchor, 2007) and Strange Times, My Dear: The PEN Anthology of Contemporary Iranian Literature (Arcade, 2006). As editor for the Mind and Life Institute, she has been responsible for a series of books representing a longterm dialogue between Buddhism and Western science. She has also pioneered the development of virtual reality as an art form; her installation Beyond Manzanar (with Tamiko Thiel), now in the permanent collection of the San Jose Museum of Art, has been widely discussed in works on new media and critical theory.
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