Hassanzadeh (Mostafavi) is an Iranian poet, translator,
and freelance journalist. Her first book of poetry
was published when she was 22 years old. Her poems
appear in the anthologies Contemporary Women Poets
of Iran and Anthology of Best Women Poets She
writes regularly for Golestaneh, Iran News, and
many other literary magazines and newspapers.
Her poems translated into English appear in Kritya,
Jehat, interpoetry, museindia, earthfamilyalpha,
and Thanalonline. Her anthology of contemporary
American poetry will appear in 2007.
Farideh is an interviewer par excellence. But
here, it is Farideh who is interviewed. This interview
was performed by Melissa Tuckey. Melissa Tuckey
is a poet, an activist involved in DC Poets Against
the War, and a FPIF contributor.
Our great poets like Hafez, Rumi, Saadi, and
Ferdousi have the largest circulation in book
fairs of Iran, after our sacred book, the Quran.
This means poets after prophets rule the heart
and mind of my people. To inspire confidence,
politicians recite poems by classic or modern
poetry in their speeches. During the imposed war
between Iran and Iraq, one journalist reported
about the poetry he found in the trenches and
foxholes survived after the dead soldiers, poems
like this from Forough Farrokhzad:”
Melissa Tuckey: What role do poets play in Iranian
Remember the flight
the bird is mortal
Hassan Zadeh: And everybody knows that one of
the most important reasons why people rebelled
against the Shah regime was the persecution and
execution of a young poet, Khosro Golsorkhi, who
was a political prisoner. In military court he
refused to ask the Shah for amnesty and bravely
declared: "I don't beg for my life. I have
always written for my people and I defend only
my people not my own life. "
My people never forgive the execution of a poet.
It is the execution of words. That is why Federico
Garcia Lorca is the most popular foreign poet
Tuckey: How do people in your country learn such
a deep appreciation for poetry?
Hassanzadeh: In Iran, from remote places to modern
cities, in each house you may find two books:
the Quran (our sacred book) and a book of Hafiz
(our great classic poet). People planning to travel
or to marry or to do business consult with Hafiz
by choosing at random a poem from his book. If
Iran is still Iran and after so many foreign aggressors,
has not yet lost his identity, it is because of
its loyalty to its culture. My son, in his latest
article, writes that "losing the lands and
cities in wars can't defeat a nation. We Iranians
know we must keep our culture. The real borders
of our country are our culture." And one
of the most vivid aspects of our culture is the
poetry of Hafez, Rumi, Ferdousi. Khayam, Nezami,
and of many other poets from classic to modern.
Tuckey: What is it like to be a woman writing
in Iran? Do women poets receive an equal amount
of admiration, support and respect?
Hassanzadeh: In recent years, women writers have
been more popular than men writers for they are
better to able to express the hidden realities
of family and society. Women writers like Roya
Pirzad, Fariba Vafi, and many others have won
the most famous literary prizes and people buy
their books in spite of financial problems. The
books of women writers reach the 20th or 30th
edition within a very short time. But as for poets,
our great poets are still Forough Farrokhzad and
Simin Behbahani from the 1940s and 1950s. Meanwhile,
among our great directors, women like Rakhshan
Bani Etemad, Samira Makhmalbaf, and Tahmine Milany
have achieved international success and fame.
And our best playwrights have been women too.
Increasingly, more women than men are studying
Tuckey: How has war affected
your life and your writing?
Hassanzadeh: Before war my poetry
was not familiar with words like: bombs, alarming
sounds, ruins and fears. The sky and the beauty
of clouds or the brightness of stars turned into
a terrible roof above me where bombs could fall
and explode all my dreams. Before war I used to
see the killed only on TV; in the news about Palestine.
I never was able to smell the warm stream of blood
shown in massacre reports. War acted like a sleight
of hand to make the distance between me and the
world disappear, beyond the TV. It turned my first
little son to a bird without wings to fly, a bird
good only to be buried forever.
Tuckey: I am sorry to hear about
the loss of your son. How old was he and when
did this happen? How do you cope with the loss?
Hassanzadeh: I almost lost my second child too.
On my way to the hospital to give birth to my
daughter Sufi, Iraq bombed my city of Tehran eight
times in less than one hour. An old man who was
looking at me big with child, shouted to the sky:
“God! What is wrong that this child must
fear coming into this world?” With each
bomb the baby inside me tried painfully to take
refugee in a peaceful place she couldn't find.
In fact during the war instead of the doctor's
protective hands, bombs gave birth to many Iranian
women's children in the streets. In the past soldiers
targeted enemy positions, but now they drop bombs
on women and children. My son, before he could
experience the fear of his first day of school,
experienced the fear of his last breath, his hands
gone with the bombs. He never tasted the joy of
putting a pencil on paper to write a word.
As for your question: How did I cope with the
loss? Honestly I could forget his death but my
feet, indifferent to me, sometimes go to the place
where my son was bombed. All mothers of dead children
know their children never leave them, never forget
them. They wait for the night to return in dreams.
They live behind the closed eyelids of their mothers.
Tuckey: Do you believe poetry is by its nature
Hassanzadeh: In Farsi the word
for poetry is "sher"—from"
shou-our", which means wisdom. And wisdom
can't ignore political realities. In my country
the great poets from classic to modern, have always
been speaking in their poems of social problems
and political events. Hafez (1320-1389) in one
of his most famous sonnets says:
Kings find good reason for the wars in which they
since truth they cannot see, to falsehood they
And, in an excerpt from a longer poem, our contemporary
poet Forough Farrokhzad says:
All our neighbors are planting
bombs and guns
in their gardens instead of flowers
I fear the time
which has lost its heart
Personally, in the depth of my heart, I have a
deep fear of political poetry. My fear of political
poetry as a poet relates to my fear of producing
political mottoes rather than pure poetry. Remember
the Polish poet Czeslaw Milosz, who wrote a letter
to the New York Review of Books objecting to a
praiseworthy review by A. Alvarez that called
him a "witness.” In Milosz's view,
the label narrowed the meaning of his poetry and
implied that his poems were a kind of journalistic
response to events. Anyway when you live in a
country that is always prey to superpowers, you
feel guity when you write love poems even for
Tuckey:: In the current crisis
do you see Iran as a prey to superpowers? I think
that is interesting because c here in America
we are given an image of Iran as being powerful
and dangerous and an instigator of problems.
Hassanzadeh: Imagine a cottage
in the morning of a village. The man is ready
to go to his farm to harvest wheat. His wife and
children are full of hopes and desires. When the
man opens the door, instead of a pleasant breeze,
he finds himself surrounded by a band of cruel
invaders. This cottage is my country. After rebelling
against the Shah regime, my people were ready
to reap the benefits of their freedom and independence
but they found themselves involved in an imposed
war by Iraq, supported by superpowers for eight
years. Now tell me please who is dangerous and
the instigator of problems? Of course, I admit
that my people, in spite of all the difficulties
are very powerful in their spirit. They surely
will never accept any foreign country to decide
Tuckey: How do you feel about
US foreign policy toward Iraq and Afghanistan?
And, more recently, U.S. policy toward Iran? How
as a poet do you deal with these developments?
Hassanzadeh: To know my feeling
and many other Iranian 's feeling about the U.S.
big-stick policy toward Afghanistan and Iraq,
I refer you to this poem: “You see no one,
you hear no one,” a poem by my son, 14 years
old ,which was published widely in Iranian newspapers
and magazines. This poem was also selected to
be published in UN Observer on Valentine’s
A Letter to George W. Bush
Hossein Mostafavi Kashani
You see no one, you hear no one
You are an important person!
So important T.V. shows you every night,
You hold the microphone
And you talk important words,
So important even Satan listens with gape mouth.
Only the flies don’t take you very seriously,
And while you talk
They are busy with their usual work.
They search for dirty, stinking things
And then they rub their hands together
while saliva drips from their mouths.
Flies don’t have a president
but some of them are very important,
So important TV shows them every night.
But they don’t have a microphone,
And unlike you they are not all dressed, making
But with dirty hands and legs,
They move on Afghani* children’s lips and
The same children on whom you drop bombs
And then send them food parcels.
By the way, how long has it been since you saw
How many years has it been since you read a poem?
Would you recognize the breeze if it passes you
by one day?
Just think! When you were a child, like all other
you saw a fresh rose whenever you looked in the
But now you see an important person
Who will die one day Even if he is the president
If you were to ask your heart
It would say it doesn’t want to beat in
And be the runway for all the planes
that bombard cities and towns.
For, God has created the heart
Only for love.
So have pity on your heart even if you can’t
pity anyone else.
It is an apple that will burst one day
And suddenly you will find your self,
Standing before the gate of paradise, begging
the pieces of your heart
from every single person you killed.
But no one sees you
No one hears you just as you neither see nor hear
on TV every night.
You only hold a microphone, and say big words
Because you are the president of America
And a very very very important person!
Hassanzadeh: And as for an attack on Iran, I am
sure Bush is going to dig his grave with his own
hands. History has proven that all fascists are
successful for a short time but final victory
is with the oppressed people.
Tuckey is a poet, an activist involved in DC Poets
Against the War, and a FPIF contributor. Farideh
Hassanzadeh an Iranian poet, translator, and freelance