Home > Translation > Three Modern Iranian Poets

Three Modern Iranian Poets

January 14, 2011

translated by Sholeh Wolpé


I See the Sea…

by Shams Langroodi

I see the sea shrink
then shrink again
until it fits in the palm of my hand.

And I
hear the sound of flying fish,
the dead sailors’ cough, the burning whales,
the shivering mermaids, the horses and the wind,
the sea’s white curls,
and the drowned strangers who have forgotten their human voice.

I see
the sea
then shrink even more
the oars’ hopeless beats,
the foam-circled boats,
the frozen shadows,
the salt encrusted stores,
the disheveled hopeless left on the shore…
Oh what strange mystery,
the sea!

I see your purple fingers
in the beakers of the dead,
and the shoulders of the wind
drenched with your mouth’s sweat,
and I see your bitter joy.

I see
the sea
then shrink again,
and I
float farther
from the invisible shore.

Where is this familiar boat
whose oars’ solemn sound mingles
with the rain carrying us?


Shams Langroodi was born in 1951, in Langrood, a coastal town edging on the Caspian Sea. In 1981, he was arrested as a political activist and served a six month sentence due to his opposition. He has published six collections of poetry, including Notes for a Warden Nightingale and The Hidden Celebrations, a novel, a play, and an anthology of Iranian poetry. His four volume history of modern Iranian poetry, Analytical History of the New Poetry, was banned in Iran for many years.


My Hands Tremble Yet Again — A Soliloquy

by Sheida Mohammadi

the sky
pulls its coat tight over its head, and
the rain keeps nagging, and
my pink doll
misses the sun…
I become weary of you.

the teacup on the table
is a crow starring at me
my throat begins to taste like caw caw.
Black-beaked clock
until dawn
black-beaked clock
till dawn
The telephone goes mad with silence,
and I, go blue with you.

Aromas quit the house.
Happiness ditches me.
And the dirty laundry
keep spinning, spinning…

My mother’s silver spoons drift and dash in the kitchen. Un-ironed shirts
lounge over cactus trees. I put on your dirty socks and waltz
with your black striped pants. The house spins around this washing
machine, round my head. Dirty dishes play games on the kitchen floor.
I yell at the flower pots and blow out the candles. Happy birthday to me!
I bang on the typewriter and am drenched in your hands’ dried up sweat.
I change the TV channel to coax a yawn into my swollen lids.
I hate the pink nail polish bottle I found on the piano.

Black-beaked clock
until dawn
black-beaked clock
till dawn
the sycamore’s yellow bluffs
and highway 118 …
do not pass me by.

like your expressions of love,
make me want to barf.
This month,
that month,
I come to hate you.
I hate you.


Sheida Mohamadi was born in Tehran, Iran, and received her B.A. in Persian Language and Literature from Tehran University in 1999. Author of three books, she was recognized as one of the most notable contemporary Persian writers of 2010 by the Encyclopedia Britannica. Her third book, Aks-e Fowri-ye Eshqbazi (The Snapshot of Making Love) was published in 2007. Her Poems have been translated into various languages, including English, French, Turkish, Kurdish and Swedish.


Blood’s Voice

by Mohsen Emadi

If one day flood brings in a sad panther
and a shrine’s door,
if they sew up a shirt with the panther’s skin,
make a necklace with his teeth,
I know that whoever puts on the shirt
will disappear,
and whoever wears the necklace
would be obliged to carry
her own head under her arms.

I take the shrine’s door
install it on the threshold
of my house. It creaks open
to a circle of women,
heads on knees,
caressing their own hair.

Outside, body-less heads
surround a fire with songs.
I don’t recognize my own voice
and the door closes and opens
to the rhythm of the words I grunt.

It is raining.
A unclothed woman knocks on the door.
She carries a boat on her back.
I greet her between the panther’s roar
and the door’s groans.
Silently she unloads her boat in a corner,
climbs in and falls asleep.

The house is in water.
Water carries away corpses of women,
it carries away the door,
and my voice.

We paddle.
We row looking for the voice.

My legacy is a door through which
when a woman enters or leaves
my voice cracks,
and the house drowns in that alien sound.

Each time my bed is a boat
to attract the nudity of a woman.
A women’s nakedness is silent.
It is wet.

I uproot the door,
plant it on my rooftop.
The wind blows.
Guns appear on the threshold of the door.
They point themselves at my throat.

The wind blows
and a thousand wounded panthers
leap out from my mouth.
I am naked.

An unclothed woman,
draws herself out from among the guns,
kisses the door,
kneels before me.
Panthers leap out from her hair.

I caress your hair.
The door will shut,
voices and winds will pound on the door.
I will not open.
And the lost voice of the man
will become blood,
will flood through the cracks
and mingling with the rain
that will come pouring,
it will flow through the city’s gutters and veins.
I kiss you
and my blood leaps out with every breath,
out from my throat.
It becomes my voice.

You are silent.
You speak inside me.

There’s no one on the rooftop.
I stand there, collect all the photographs
the shirts, the photos of a thousand hands holding guns,
the portraits of women’s heads
and the narrow stream of blood
that flows on the paper’s edge.

I light a match,
throw into fire the shirts and the papers.
The fire has your shape.
I want to touch your hair.
I reach for you
and become a poet.

I pick up my pen
and blood flows from my hand.
The lines are your hair,
in every line a panther roars.


On the balcony
I fill my childhood cradle with soil,
plant roses inside it.
I water the roses,
rock the cradle.
The city is silent.


Mohsen Emadi was born in Sari, Iran in 1976. He is the author of a collection of poetry, translated into Spanish and published in Spain. He is the founder and manager of Ahmad Shamlu’s official website and The house of world poets website, a Persian anthology of world poetry that includes more than 100 modern poets.

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Sholeh Wolpé (website) is the author of Rooftops of Tehran, The Scar Saloon, and Sin: Selected Poems of Forugh Farrokhzad for which she was awarded the Lois Roth Persian Translation Prize in 2010. Sholeh is a regional editor of Tablet & Pen: Literary Landscapes from the Modern Middle East edited by Reza Aslan (Norton), the guest editor of Atlanta Review (2010 Iran issue), and the editor of an upcoming anthology of Iranian poetry, The Forbidden: Poems from Iran and its exiles, due out from the University of Michigan State Press this year. Sholeh’s poems, translations, essays and reviews have appeared in scores of literary journals, periodicals and anthologies worldwide, and have been translated into several languages.

  1. Alex Cigale
    January 14, 2011 at 7:54 pm

    Thank you for this bounteous gift, Sholeh; these will take me many days still to digest. A thrilling introduction to your Forbidden Iran poetry anthology forthcoming from MSU. I look forward to learning more about these and the other fine poets. Of course questions of tradition and influence linger. Would be wonderful to hear from you here: I assume Symbolism, Surrealism, etc. have taken their place along indigenous culture, religion, myth?

  2. January 15, 2011 at 8:16 pm

    Wonderful contemporary poems that take their place in Iran’s tremendous tradition, thank you for these, Sholeh.

  3. January 19, 2011 at 12:37 am

    Stunning images that like Alex would take me not days but more to keep drawing them up from that well in my spirit where they have lodged. Thank you, Sholeh! I would like to read more.

  4. February 1, 2011 at 2:14 am

    beautiful poems – happy to learn of these poets and their poems

  5. January 14, 2012 at 11:44 am

    So nice to hear modern Persian poets. I am, of course, a big fan of the classical greats but we do not get enough exposure to the present. Thank you for your gift.

  1. January 16, 2011 at 9:26 am
  2. May 9, 2011 at 3:29 pm
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