For me, one of the most (if not THE most) prolific of post revolution Iranian poets has to be Afshin Yadollahi.
A Psychiatrist by profession, his intricate, sensuous, and elaborate free verse poetry melts your heart, stimulates your thoughts, and leaves you with in awe of his brilliant mind.
A great Persian poem in my opinion not only seamlessly weaves the right words, verbs and adjectives together but also invites her audience to dig deeper and find layers after layers of meaning behind the metaphorical façade of the verses.
Dr. Yadollahi’s work does that.
Here’s a verse from poem called ؛چه کردی؛ or “what have you done” as an example:
در ابریشم عادت آسوده بودم…
تو با “بال” پروانه ی من چه کردی؟
“I was content in the silky convenience of habit…
What have you done to my butterfly wings…”
My initial naïve reaction to this verse was that the poet is complaining about the inconvenience that falling in love brings. Yadollahi married in his forties, and any man marrying for the first time after an extended bachelorhood would know what he meant by describing his lifestyle as “silky convenience of habit”. It is not easy for a bachelor man in his forties to change his habits and become domiciled.
I was content with that interpretation until I realized that for a man to tie the knot for the first time this relatively late in his life, something extraordinary must have happened. In that light, the verse suddenly takes a new and more positive turn. Here Yadollahi may have wanted to resemble his life to the point of meeting his beloved to a caterpillar nesting in a cocoon waiting for the metamorphosis to turn him into a beautiful butterfly with wings. What initially seemed to be a verse about the burden of love becomes a statement of appreciation towards an event that upgraded the poet to a much better person.
It is instances like this and poets who create them that make Persian poetry such an enduring phenomenon that enchants generation after generation of Farsi speaking people.
A beautiful and befitting rendition of this poem is sung by a thalassemic young lad by the name Amin Bani with an angelic face and a godly voice.
Dr. Yadollahi tragically passed away couple of years ago at the age of 48 on spot in a horrific car crash when returning from his birth place of Hashtgerd back to Tehran. His beloved wife, Shabnam Rahmatian, the woman behind his metamorphosis, was in the car with him and passed away a few days later in the hospital.
His work is translated to English by Caroline Croskery.
I leave you with the last two verses of his poem “I fell in love with your eyes” (a poem about philosophy of life) both in Farsi and my own adaptive English translation of them. The poem is beautifully sung by Alireza Ghorbani as the title song for the Iranian series “ Madar Sefr Darajeh” (Zero degree latitude). The series tells a love story between an Iranian student in Paris and a Jewish girl during World War II. Highly recommended if you want to hear tantalizing Farsi dialogues.
من عاشق چشمت شدم شاید کمی هم بیشتر
چیزی در آنسوی یقین، شاید کمی هم کیشتر
آغاز و ختم ماجرا لمس تماشای تو بود
دیگر فقط تصویر من در مردمکهای تو بود.
I fell in love with your eyes, may be a bit more
Something beyond belief, may be more like a cult
It was the touch of your gaze,
Seeing my image in the pupils of your eyes,
Those were the beginning and end of the adventure