Ahmad Shamlou (1925–2000) is recognized as one of Iran’s greatest modern poets, writing in the new mode of expression pioneered by Nima Yushij. Born into a military family, he spent an itinerant youth being transferred from one remote town to another, with schooling left unfinished. During World War II, he was arrested by the occupying Allied forces and imprisoned for supporting the German war effort. On his release a year later, he was arrested again along with his father, and together they faced a firing squad and last-minute reprieve. In the 1950s he spent six months in hiding and another year in prison for his support of Mossadegh’s nationalist movement. Eventually, in 1977, political oppression moved Shamlou to leave Iran, and he lived for two years in Princeton and in England. Like so many who at first believed that the revolution heralded new freedom and stability, Shamlou returned to Iran in 1979.
Throughout these vicissitudes he wrote continuously. In addition to twelve collections of his own poetry published between 1948 and 1978, he has also written several plays and a major analytical survey of Iranian folklore Ketab-i Kucheh [Book of the Street], is the editor of an important edition of Hafez as well as other volumes of classical Iranian poetry, and has translated many French authors into Persian. Shamlou’s third marriage lasted from 1964 until his death, and his wife Ayda figures prominently as the muse of many of his later poems.