Jasmine Darznik: Song of a Captive Bird

She is known in the West as the Sylvia Plath of Iran. As if the name Forugh Farrokhzad is not enough.

Although I understand the comparison because of the early and tragic deaths, of troubled lives we wouldn’t hope to emulate but whose courage to immortalize raw emotion we secretly envy, the turbulent relationships, also their notoriety of speaking against the constraints that society imposed on women and paving the way for other women in literature — but Forugh Farrokhzad is Forugh Farrokhzad to me. The rebel poet of Iran.

“𝐓𝐡𝐢𝐧𝐤 𝐚𝐛𝐨𝐮𝐭 𝐭𝐡𝐞 𝐰𝐫𝐢𝐭𝐞𝐫𝐬 𝐲𝐨𝐮’𝐯𝐞 𝐦𝐨𝐬𝐭 𝐚𝐝𝐦𝐢𝐫𝐞𝐝. 𝐖𝐡𝐚𝐭 𝐡𝐚𝐬 𝐠𝐢𝐯𝐞𝐧 𝐲𝐨𝐮 𝐬𝐨𝐥𝐚𝐜𝐞 𝐢𝐧 𝐭𝐡𝐞𝐢𝐫 𝐰𝐨𝐫𝐝𝐬? 𝐖𝐡𝐚𝐭 𝐡𝐚𝐬 𝐠𝐢𝐯𝐞𝐧 𝐲𝐨𝐮 𝐜𝐨𝐮𝐫𝐚𝐠𝐞? 𝐈 𝐜𝐚𝐧 𝐠𝐮𝐞𝐬𝐬 𝐭𝐡𝐚𝐭 𝐰𝐡𝐞𝐧 𝐲𝐨𝐮 𝐡𝐚𝐯𝐞 𝐛𝐞𝐞𝐧 𝐦𝐨𝐯𝐞𝐝, 𝐢𝐭’𝐬 𝐛𝐞𝐞𝐧 𝐛𝐲 𝐚 𝐰𝐫𝐢𝐭𝐞𝐫 𝐰𝐡𝐨 𝐡𝐚𝐬 𝐫𝐢𝐬𝐤𝐞𝐝 𝐡𝐨𝐧𝐞𝐬𝐭𝐲.”

Hers is one of the strongest female voices in Iranian literature. I first came across her poems in an anthology featuring a thousand years of Persian poetry by women and in a film by Abbas Kiarostami, and subsequently the haunting poetry that she extended to filmmaking in 𝘛𝘩𝘦 𝘏𝘰𝘶𝘴𝘦 𝘪𝘴 𝘉𝘭𝘢𝘤𝘬. It is an extremely moving and artistic documentary about a leper colony in Azerbaijan, from where she afterwards adopted a son of the colony’s two inhabitants.

When I learned that Jasmin Darznik had written a well-researched book on her life, I was intrigued. Written in the first person in a most lyrical and revealing voice with generous layers of pain and art, this is that book.

“𝐎𝐧𝐜𝐞, 𝐰𝐡𝐞𝐧 𝐦𝐲 𝐩𝐨𝐞𝐦𝐬 𝐰𝐞𝐫𝐞 𝐛𝐚𝐧𝐧𝐞𝐝 𝐛𝐲 𝐭𝐡𝐞 𝐧𝐞𝐰 𝐫𝐞𝐠𝐢𝐦𝐞 𝐚𝐧𝐝 𝐚 𝐩𝐮𝐛𝐥𝐢𝐬𝐡𝐞𝐫 𝐰𝐨𝐮𝐥𝐝𝐧’𝐭 𝐬𝐭𝐨𝐩 𝐩𝐫𝐢𝐧𝐭𝐢𝐧𝐠 𝐭𝐡𝐞𝐦, 𝐡𝐢𝐬 𝐩𝐫𝐞𝐬𝐬 𝐰𝐚𝐬 𝐛𝐮𝐫𝐧𝐞𝐝 𝐭𝐨 𝐭𝐡𝐞 𝐠𝐫𝐨𝐮𝐧𝐝. 𝐀𝐬 𝐢𝐟 𝐩𝐨𝐞𝐭𝐫𝐲 𝐜𝐨𝐮𝐥𝐝 𝐛𝐞 𝐝𝐞𝐬𝐭𝐫𝐨𝐲𝐞𝐝 𝐥𝐢𝐤𝐞 𝐚 𝐛𝐮𝐢𝐥𝐝𝐢𝐧𝐠 𝐨𝐫 𝐚 𝐛𝐨𝐝𝐲. 𝐁𝐮𝐭 𝐚𝐫𝐭 𝐰𝐚𝐬𝐧’𝐭 𝐥𝐢𝐤𝐞 𝐭𝐡𝐚𝐭. 𝐀𝐫𝐭 𝐜𝐨𝐮𝐥𝐝 𝐬𝐮𝐫𝐯𝐢𝐯𝐞; 𝐞𝐯𝐞𝐧 𝐰𝐡𝐞𝐧 𝐬𝐮𝐩𝐩𝐫𝐞𝐬𝐬𝐞𝐝, 𝐞𝐯𝐞𝐧 𝐰𝐡𝐞𝐧 𝐨𝐮𝐭𝐥𝐚𝐰𝐞𝐝, 𝐢𝐭 𝐜𝐨𝐮𝐥𝐝 𝐬𝐮𝐫𝐯𝐢𝐯𝐞 𝐟𝐚𝐫 𝐰𝐨𝐫𝐬𝐞 𝐟𝐚𝐭𝐞𝐬 𝐭𝐡𝐚𝐧 𝐟𝐢𝐫𝐞.” 

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