7. A book written in the Middle East: Belonging: New Poetry by Iranians Around the World edited and translated by Niloufar Talebi
List Progress: 12/30
This collection was a random grab at my local library, but I am quite happy to say that it played out well for me. A poetry anthology with an enticing premise, Belonging: New Poetry by Iranians Around the World is a collection of poems by Iranians who no longer live in Iran. The Iranian Revolution of 1979 has influenced all of these poets, from the ones who were adults and politically active in 1979, to those who were infants at the time and grew up in the aftermath. Each poem has its own merits, but more than the individual pieces, editor and translator Niloufar Talebi does a skillful job painting a portrait of diaspora artists and art.
Talebi has collected poetry from around the world, largely in the New Poetry genre of Persian writing (which I have no outside knowledge of). The poets are arranged roughly chronologically based on when they started publishing, though many have careers that span decades. Each poet is introduced by a page of biographical background and some poem analysis, which was very helpful for me as an American reader with very little knowledge of the cultural landscape of the Iranian revolution. Being able to get an insight into the symbolism, context and references for each piece was incredibly useful and a good tool for the book to not just translate the words, but the meanings of each piece.
Liking poetry in particular is a lot about personal taste, and my tastes tend towards the more structured and clear poems, no matter what background they come from. I ended up bookmarking each piece I really enjoyed, so special shout-out to the following poets whose work I found very moving:
- Mina Assadi, particularly her poem “Waking Dreams 6”
- Esma’il Kho’i, especially “Image of Kindness”
- All of the work by Partow Nooriala
- Majid Naficy
- Reza Farmand’s “My Mother Did Not Become Beautiful” is one of the best feminist pieces of writing by a male writer I’ve ever seen
- Saghi Ghahraman’s poems are hauntingly beautiful and painful
- Naanaam’s poems are fascinatingly modern and casual
- Mana Aghaee, especially her poem “My Death”
The more experimental and impressionistic poetry does not appeal to me nearly as much, but I can understand that that kind of writing speaks to a lot of people differently, especially in its native language. I did appreciate that each poem was pasted in parallel in both Persian and English, a lovely symbolic as well as practical aspect of cross-cultural art. Talebi has done a wonderful job collecting, translating and synthesizing these pieces and I would be thrilled to see them shared with a larger audience.
Would I Recommend It: Yes