A Brief Note on Forugh Farrukhzad's Life

Iraj Bashiri
Copyright, Bashiri, 2000

Forugh Farrukhzad was born in 1935, in Tehran, to a middle class family. She received an incomplete early education; she abandoned formal learning after she finished the first 3 years of high school and never received a high school diploma. Later on, for a brief period, she attended the Banovan Technical School to study painting and sewing. That, too, apparently, did not amount to much. Forugh's forte was writing poetry, something that she began in her mid-teens. By the time she was sixteen, she was composing ghazals in the tradition of the old masters.

Several factors shape the social life of Forugh Farrukhzad. The first is her marriage to a government employee called Parviz Shapur, later on a critic and caricaturist. After their first child, a boy named Kamyar, was born in 1954, the family moved to Ahwaz. A daring, petite, and attractive young woman--the first to wear tight-fitting clothes in Ahwaz--Forugh could not endure long as a wife in a provincial town. The marriage ended in a divorce in the same year. Kamyar's custody went to his father.

Another factor is the scandal that centered on Forugh's close friendships with her male companions. For a while (1955 to mid-1967) she befriended the famed poet Nadir Naderpur who, later on, recognized the relationship as a love relationship. In 1958, the novelist Sadeq Chubak, introduced Farrukhzad whom he knew well to Ibrahim Gulistan, a cinematographer. Later on Farrukhzad became a close associate of Gulistan. She attended parties with the cinematographer and his wife as Gulistan's assistant. Otherwise, she lived in an apartment in northern Tehran which was paid for by Gulistan. This relationship lasted until the death of the poetess in 1967 in a car crash.

Still a third, and perhaps the most important factor, was Forugh's open discussion of her emotions in her verses, discussions that for centuries had been suppressed by religious authorities, community watchdogs, and conservative literati. The fact that Iranian audiences of the time identified the voice of the character in a piece with that of the poet did not help matters much. The efforts of benevolent critics who tried to sort out Forugh's personal views of morality from the freshness of her ideas, images, and approach to versification also fell by the way side.

Had Forugh lived longer, we would have a better understanding of her reasons for the outrage at Iranian society of her time. If her latter poems are an indication, she foresaw much that happened to Iran during the decade that followed her death, much that was beyond any one person's ability to set right. Nevertheless, she voiced her opinion. A brief chronology of Forugh's main activities between 1955 and 1967 follows:

Forugh Farrukhzad's Life: A Chronology
Iraj Bashiri
Copyright, Bashiri, 2000

Born in Tehran, one of five children of a middle class family
Finished elementary school; began writing ghazals
Finished high school; married Parviz Shapur
Her son, Kamyar, was born; the family moved to Ahwaz
Her marriage to Shapur is dissolved; Kamyar is placed in Shapur 's custody; Forugh is devastated
Asir (the captive), her first collection of poems is published in Tehran
Divar (the wall), is published. The volume is dedicated to her ex-husband, Shapur; travels to Europe for the first time and gains a new view of the world and of herself
'Esiyan (Rebellion) is published; becomes an assistant to filmmaker Ebrahim Gulistan, although their association and friendship becomes controversial, they work together until the end of Forugh's life.
Travels to England to study the art of the film. Tavallodi Digar (Another Birth) is completed. The volume, published posthumously, is dedicated to Ebrahim Gulistan who had helped the poetess enormously during their nine years of association. In this same year, Forugh begins editing the film A Fire
Played a role and assisted in the production of the film Courtship dealing with Iranian courtship customs
Co-Produced the film Water and Heat as well as made a commercial for the Kayhan newspaper
Played a role in and assisted with the production of an unfinished film to be calledThe Sea. The theme of the film is based on Sadeq Chubak's short story entitled, "Why Did the Sea Become Stormy?" Also worked on a film about a leper colony in Tabriz. The film was called The House of Black
Received grand prize for "The House of Black " at Uberhausen Film festival in Germany.
First anthology of her verse is published.
Her life is subject of a 15-minute film documentary produced by the UNESCO
Visits Italy. Plans to play in the stage production of Bernard Shaw's St. Joan in Tehran; is killed in a car accident (February), at the age of 32.
A posthumous collection of her poems was published.


The Wedding Band

Forough Farrukhzad

Iraj Bashiri

Giggling, the little girl said,
Talk to me about this band,
about the secret of this band which
  embraces my finger so tightly.
Tell me the secret of this brilliant, this bright band.

Astounded, the man replied:
This ring. This is the ring of happiness, the ring of life

In unison, all those present said:
"May it be auspicious!"
The girl sighed:
"Only if I did not have my doubts."

One night, years later,

An unhappy woman viewed the golden band and
in its brilliant design,
  she saw the death of her own days
    days she had waited for her husband's loyalty.

Distressed, the woman lamented
This band, still so bright, so brilliant
  is really a collar
a collar of bondage, of slavery.

Farrukhzad's Rebellion


Forough Farrukhzad

Iraj Bashiri

Seal not my lips, nor silence me,
let me relate my untold tale
take this chain, which weighs
so heavily on my heart,
off my feet.

O man, you self-centered creature
come forth
open the door of this cage
wherein you hold me prisoner for life
allow me a breath of freedom.

I am the bird that has
for an eternity thought
of soaring to the heights
but whose songs have turned into laments
and whose life has turned into a shell of desires.

Seal not my lips, nor silence me
I have to relate my tale
I must relate to the entire world
my burning tale, my fiery echo.

Come forth and release me
to the clear, pristine heights of poetry
should you allow me this flight
my rose will adorn the garden of poetry.

I readily give my lip and its sweet kiss,
my body and its sweet fragrance,
my look and its hidden flames, even
my heart and its blood-filled laments.

To you, O self-centered creature
not to malign my poetry, not to call it infamy
do you know how confining this cage is
for the liberal at heart? It is confining, it is.

Rather than telling me my poem is sinful throughout
pass me a gobletful of sin and infamy
keep your paradise, your houris, and the Kawthar
but grant me a hut in the depths of hell.

Allow me a book of poetry, some respite, some silence
Allow me my drunkenness and stupor
keep me out of your paradise, I don't care
I have an eternal paradise within me.

At night, when the moon dances
amid the foreboding sky
when I am drunk with desire and you with asleep
I embrace the moonlight.

The zephyr kisses me a thousand times
and a thousand times I kiss the sun
one night, in the very prison you keep me
a kiss shakes my entire existence.

Away with good name and fame,
welcome astonishingly delicious infamy
God who endowed poets with desirous hearts
forgives my sins, I am sure.

Come forth and release me
to the clear, pristine heights of poetry
should you allow me this flight
my rose will adorn the garden of poetry.


Forough Farrukhzad

Iraj Bashiri

I desire you although I know
I shall never embrace you
You embody the bright blue sky
I remain a mere caged bird.

Full of desire,
from behind cold bars, I look at you,
and hope one day a hand would
set me free to fly to you.

A neglectful moment can occur
when I fly out of this silent cell
laugh at the watchful eyes of the guard
and begin a new life beside you.

This thought runs through my head
even though I lack the will to leave this cage
besides, even if the guard allows it
I don't have the stamina to fly.

From behind the bars each morn
a child greets me with a smile
and when I begin my happy song
her puckered lips reach for a kiss.

O Heaven! were I to desire to
abandon this silent cell and fly to you
what could I say to that tearful child?
caged birds belong to cages.

Like a candle, my self-consuming being
illumines a nest
If I shine no more,
that nest will surely be destroyed.

I Feel Sad for the Garden

Forough Farrukhzad

Anita Spertus

Nobody is thinking about flowers
Nobody is thinking about the goldfish
Nobody wants
to believe that the flower garden is dying
that the garden's heart has swollen under the sun
that the garden's mind is being emptied
of the memory of green
that the garden's feeling is huddling
in a corner, slowly rotting.

The yard of our house is lonely
our yard is yawning in anticipation
of a rain from some unknown cloud
and the pond in our yard is empty.
The small inexperienced stars
are falling off the treetops
and from the house of the goldfish, through their faded windows
there come, at night, the sound of coughing.
Our yard is lonely.

Father says:
"It is too late for me
I did my work
I carried my load."
He sits in his room
from morning till sundown
reading native epics and histories.
Father says to mother:
"To hell with any birds or fish
what difference does it make after my death
whether there is a garden
or not
my retirement pension will suffice."

All her life
Mother has been standing
before her prayer-spread
at the threshold of the fear of hell.
At the bottom of everything
Mother looks for the footsteps of sin
and thinks that it is the consequence of a plant's sin
that has spread over the garden.
Everyday she says prayers
and breathes them to all the flowers
to all the goldfish
to herself
Mother is waiting for a second coming
and the blessing which is to descend.
My brother calls the garden a cemetery
my brother laughs at the confusion of plants
and takes statistics of the fish
perishing under the sick skin of the water
my brother is hooked on philosophy
he thinks the garden will be saved
by the destruction of the garden
he gets drunk
and punches the walls and windows
and tries so hard to say
that he is much pained, and talks of his ennui
he takes his despair with himself wherever he goes
along with his ID card, pocket calendar, lighter and ball-point pen.
His despair is so little that it gets
lost in the comings and goings
of the beer joint.

And my sister who used to be the flowers' best friend
and whenever Mother beat her
She shared the secret of her heart
with the quiet gathering of geraniums
and sometimes she even invited the family of the goldfish
for a party of the sun and candies-
now she lives on the other side of town
and in her artificial house
along with her artificial goldfish
beside her artificial husband
she sings artificial songs
and makes natural babies
whenever she comes to see us
and the hems of her dress touch
the poverty of the garden
she takes a cologne bath
every times she comes to see us
she is pregnant

The yard of our house is lonely
the yard of our house is lonely
everyday, behind the door, there comes the sound of
people being killed
and the sound of explosions
our neighbors are planting in place of flowers
shells and grenades. . . .
the little children have filled
their briefcase with little bombs.
The yard of our house is lost.

      * * * *

I am afraid of the times
when I have lost my heart
I am afraid of thinking
about the futility of so many hands
the alienness of so many faces.

Like a little student who loves madly
his geometry assignment
I am alone
thinking that it is possible to take the garden
to the hospital
and the garden's heart has swollen under the sun
and slowly, slowly, the garden's mind is emptied
of the memory of green.

Another Birth

Forough Farrukhzad

translated by Karim Emami

My whole being is a dark chant
that will carry you perpetuating you
to the dawn of eternal growths and blossomings
in the chant I sighed you, oh
in this chant
I grafted you to the tree, to the water, to the fire


Life is perhaps
a long street through which a woman holding a basket passes every day
life is perhaps
a rope with which a man hangs himself from a branch
life is perhaps a child returning home from school.
Life is perhaps lighting up a cigarette in the narcotic repose between
     two love-makings
or the absent gaze of a passerby
who takes off his hat to another passerby
with a meaningless smile and a good morning.
Life is perhaps that enclosed moment
when my gaze destroys itself in the pupils of your eyes
and it is in the feeling
that I will put into the Moon's perception and the Night's impression.


In a room as big as loneliness
my heart
which is as big as love
looks at the simple pretexts of its happiness
at the beautiful decay of flowers in the vase
at the saplings you planted in our garden
and the song of canaries
that sing to the size of a window


this is my lot
this is my lot
my lot is
a sky that is taken away at the drop of a curtain
my lot is going down a flight of disused stairs
to regain something amid putrefaction and nostalgia
my lot is a sad promenade in the garden of memories
and dying in the grief of a voice that tells me:
I love
your hands.


I will plant my hands in the garden
I will grow. I know. I know. I know
and swallows will lay eggs
in the hollow of my ink-stained hands.
I shall wear twin cherries
as earrings
and I shall put dahlia petals on my fingernails


There is an alley
where the boys who were in love with me still
loiter with the same unkempt hair, thin necks and bony legs
and think of the innocent smiles of a little girl who one night
was blown away by the wind.
There is an alley that my heart has stolen
from the streets of my childhood.


The journey of a form along the line of time
and inseminating the line of time with the form
a form conscious of an image
returning from a feast in the mirror.
And it is in this way
that someone dies
and someone lives on.


No fisherman shall ever find a pearl in a small brook
that empties into a pool


I know a sad little fairy
who lives in an ocean
and ever so softly
plays her heart into a magic flute
a sad little fairy
who dies with one kiss each night
and is reborn with one kiss each dawn.

The Wind Will Carry Us Away

Forough Farrukhzad

In my small night, alas
the wind has a rendezvous with the leaves of trees
In my small night rests the fear of ruin

Do you hear the blowing of the darkness?
I look at this good luck like a stranger
I am accustomed to my hopelessness
Do you hear the blowing of the darkness?

In the night now something is happening:
the moon is red and disturbed
and above this roof, which at any moment might fall,
the clouds like the crowds of mourners
seem to await the moment of rain

A moment
and after that-nothing.
Behind this window the night is trembling,
and the earth
stands still in its course
Vague things lie behind this window,
you and I, uneasy

O you are green all over,
put your hands like a burning memory in my loving hands
and entrust your lips like a warm sense of life
to the caresses of loving lips
The wind will carry us away with it
The wind will carry us away.

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