Farrokhzad, sister of the late revered poet Forough
Farrokhzad, writes about women and poetry and looks at
how those who have been silenced by Iran's laws and
male-dominated culture have managed to make their voices
(Interview translated from Farsi.)
Holly: Could you speak about Iranians and
love, or love for life?
PF: In general all Iranian women are in love,
meaning Iranians are hot-blooded — the reason is the
sun that shines directly from above over Iran. The
majority of Iranians are in love, especially most
Iranian women are in love and love life. If they weren't
in love they could never tolerate the specific life they
live today. They are in love and patient, they wait till
they reach the place where they're supposed to be.
Iranian women are in love with life, are in love with
their identity, are in love with their culture…they're
just in love.
Holly: Is this why
there is so much poetry?
PF: The reason is the sunshine, if you look at
Iran's map from above you see that the sun shines
directly on it. The Iranian soil is brick colored and a
little red and when this sun shines brightly, the cells
move rapidly and when they move more rapidly, love is
more passionate and when love is more passionate, poetry
comes out. In reality, most Iranians are poets — even
those who during my childhood used to peddle in the
streets and sell ice cream, their chants were rhythmic
and they spoke with poetry. If you pay attention you can
see that Iranians can come up with poems instantly and
the reason for it is love that is inside them and this
is much stronger in women.
Holly: Could you talk about the last book
that you have published?
PF: My last book is about the path of poetry
by women from the fourth century [the 10th century AD]
'till my sister Forough. I will write the second volume
that will cover the women who came after in the future.
In this book, I have studied how women poets lived,
because the male-dominated society did not allow women
to speak at all. The women were forced to live behind
closed doors and compose their poetry there, and the
women from the second or third social classes did not
have the right to compose poetry at all. Only women who
were from the ruling aristocracy — the daughter or
wife of a king, for example — could compose poetry.
Therefore there are few women poets and in reality we
only had around 40 women from the fourth century 'till
Forough who were able to write poetry. But most of them
wrote the poetry from the voice and perspective of a
man, because women had no identity and had not yet
gained their historical identity to have the courage to
write poetry in their own voices. My sister Forough in
reality started a style and school of thought, meaning
that for the first time in Iran she wrote from a woman's
perspective and voice.
I think there are around 70-80 years between Forough
and Jalleh. We had female poet called Jalleh Aalam-Tadj
Ghaem-Maghamie who was the first woman who spoke from a
woman's voice, but she did not show her feelings as much
and spoke mostly about her husband, her children and the
oppression of the male-dominated society. She did not
have the courage to express her feelings. In reality
Jalleh started it but Forough is more audacious, is more
candid, is brave and for the first time has shouted,
meaning that she has spoken up for all female Iranian
poets and has spoken as a woman. Parts of my book have
to do with Forough, with Jalleh, Parvin Ehtesami and
other poets. We know that especially during the time
Qajar dynasty we had many female poets. Fathali Shah
Qajar [the king] had around 1,000 wives and most of them
were poets, meaning that they were trapped in cages and
were shouting. The poems are simple and do not have
literary value but as I said there is much of them and I
intend to write a book about the poet wives of Fathali
Shah, his daughters, granddaughters and all the women in
his court — [they] were shouting and composing poetry,
its very interesting, it should be studied.
Holly: Why do think the
people and youth like to go to Forough's grave?
PF: Forough has a charm, a charisma; in
reality there is no word [expression] to describe this
type of people, some people just have it, they have a
genius, they have something, they radiate something that
attracts others. Forough speaks plainly and simply and
is frank and sincere, she is brave and candid. Eastern
people, not only Iranians but in general Eastern people,
always live under masks, they are never themselves and
are like an onion, there are many skins until you get to
the real person. Forough is just herself, there are no
skins, she speaks in simple words, she is not afraid to
express what she experiences, the reason is people like
sincerity, people like simplicity, and people don't like
lies. Forough doesn't lie; she is a woman without a
mask. That is the reason; there is no other reason.
Holly: What are some of
the myths that the west has about Iranian women?
PF: That is true when people from the west
come to interview me I realize that they look at me from
a different perspective, as if they have come to see a
woman from a thousand years ago, while that is not true.
Well, we have certain rules [laws] here and naturally
because of our upbringing and training we have accepted
those rules, but the truth is something else. For me,
the intellectual issue is very important. Always during
hard times, under pressure, under these conditions,
growth is created. And in reality, Iranian women have
gone through a very wondrous era during these 22-23
years, meaning that they have taken a journey of mind.
Meaning that regardless of the destiny that had been
decided for them, they did the reverse and grew
extensively. Very early on they went after their
identity and found it in themselves and grew amazingly.
Because I deal with women I see from 12-year-old girls
to 80-year-old women being active and building
themselves. We grew [progressed] massively and we have
numerous poets, painters, writers, sculptors, social
activists, those active in charities, scientific work
and in all social aspects Iranian women have clearly
shown their growth and progress.
A few days ago, I heard from a lady whom I respect a
lot speaking on NITV saying that the Iranian women have
done nothing in these 20 years. This is so painful for
me. I want to ask what have women on the other side
done? I respect all of them but is living in difficult
conditions and growing important, or living and growing
in freedom? Which? Like soldiers, Iranian women are
building the roads. They are building the roads of the
future. We spent ourselves; we have worked so hard. I,
for example, am a hard worker, and I have always worked.
I have worked for Iran, and for Iranian women. We are
working for the future, and the future is going to show
us who is honorable: Iranian women.
Holly: Could you read one of your favorite
PF: I have a lot of poetry, but since we are
talking about Iranian women, I will read the title poem
from my new book, The Women of Forever — for
women, I see the pains of the past, present and future
as all the same.
The Women of Forever
Holly: What is your fear?
The forgotten women, they weigh heavily and squeeze the
small openings of my heart and always make me cry.
The dust of forgetting and past has covered their bodies
and hides them from the memories.
Forgiving, dynamic, lasting and loving women innocent
like the youth, like the youth.
I rub my head against the faraway shrine of thought and
see them each who move by, pale and gaunt.
We move forward in a aura of fog, with eyes wet from
warm tears from the mountains and the complaints and the
repeated crying of destruction.
The woman stares at my existence and follows the lost
dreams through calm blinking, quiet.
My dream, my mother's dream, my grandmother's dream, the
women of pain, the women of agony, patient women who
don't complain and travel the paths of history, quiet,
From the beginning to today, passion creating women who
are alive, passion creating women who are alive who play
the drums with their seeking and dynamic hands and feet
and lose a new image in our dreams.
The women of yesterday, today, from me to us, the women
PF: I don't fear anything. Humans make their
own fear. Fear doesn't exist by itself. It comes from
inside, and my inside is not weak to make the fears. Not
even my sister's death scared me, my own story didn't
Holly: What are you writing about?
PF: I'm writing an old story about our family.
I'm writing a book called The Kids from the Khadam
Azad Alley. We lived in an alley called Khadam Azad.
We lived there from the time we were little until 14-15,
a lot of famous people came from that street. I realized
this later on, when I was older — how famous all of us
who used to play with each other had become. For
example, Ahad Ashraf who works with Yarsater on Iranica,
his brother Hamid Ashraf, a wrestler called Mehdizadeh
who became very famous. There was Dr. Azimi, Sirrus
Azimi who became a university professor. There was
Roghieh Behzadi who became a professor of ancient
languages and teaches, writes books and is a researcher.
There were three or four of us from our family who
became famous. When I was a kid, Ruhangiz the famous
Iranian singer lived in that alley and used to sing. I'm
writing the memories of that street, mine, Forough's,