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Poetry

Connection

By Forugh Farrokhzad
Translated from Persian by Sholeh Wolpé
Love poem by Iran's best-known and most controversial woman poet.

The black of my irises,
those simple, reclusive Sufis of mine
swooned in the song-spell of his eyes.

I sensed him billow all around me,
radiating towards infinity
to the other side of life
like fire’s red pyramid,
like a cloud in spasm of rain,
like a sky embraced
by warm seasons’ breath.

I sensed that in the breeze
of his hands’ movements
the substance of my being
was disintegrating.
I sensed his heart peal inside mine
like the bell of a wandering sorcerer.

The clock took flight.
The curtain withdrew with the wind.
I had pressed him to myself
inside the halo of that fire
and I wanted to say something
but to my astonishment
his thick shadowing lashes
released themselves like silk strands
from the base of darkness
along desire’s long trail
and through the tremor
—that deathly tremor—
to the end of my end.

I sensed my release.
I sensed my release.

I sensed my skin crack from love’s dilating joy,
as my flaming mass melted slowly
and flowed, streamed and flowed
into the moon,
a turbulent blurry moon
drowned in a ditch.

We had cried into each other.
We had madly lived a moment’s
ephemeral union inside one other.


Translation of “Vasl,” from
Reborn. Translation copyright 2010 by Sholeh Wolpé. All rights reserved.

Read About Context Explore Teaching Ideas

The black of my irises,
those simple, reclusive Sufis of mine
swooned in the song-spell of his eyes.

I sensed him billow all around me,
radiating towards infinity
to the other side of life
like fire’s red pyramid,
like a cloud in spasm of rain,
like a sky embraced
by warm seasons’ breath.

I sensed that in the breeze
of his hands’ movements
the substance of my being
was disintegrating.
I sensed his heart peal inside mine
like the bell of a wandering sorcerer.

The clock took flight.
The curtain withdrew with the wind.
I had pressed him to myself
inside the halo of that fire
and I wanted to say something
but to my astonishment
his thick shadowing lashes
released themselves like silk strands
from the base of darkness
along desire’s long trail
and through the tremor
—that deathly tremor—
to the end of my end.

I sensed my release.
I sensed my release.

I sensed my skin crack from love’s dilating joy,
as my flaming mass melted slowly
and flowed, streamed and flowed
into the moon,
a turbulent blurry moon
drowned in a ditch.

We had cried into each other.
We had madly lived a moment’s
ephemeral union inside one other.


Translation of “Vasl,” from
Reborn. Translation copyright 2010 by Sholeh Wolpé. All rights reserved.

Definitions

Sufis: Sufism is the mystical aspect of Islam, sometimes called its “inward dimension,” focused on worship. Sufis are practitioners of this tradition. (Rumi, an ancient poet who influenced Farrokhzad, was a Sufi.)

Meet the Author

“Forugh Farrokhzad was a poet who dared defy stupid attitudes towards women . . .” Watch translator Sholeh Wolpé and others discuss Farrozkhad’s short, rebellious life, during which, “with each ‘no’ she encountered, she responded with an even more furious ‘yes.'”

(Watch on YouTube.)

Then, read what scholar and author Amir Arian writes about this poem in his introduction to Iranian literature:

The poem “Connection,” included in this collection, contains the major elements that characterize her work. In her love poems like this one, she had a way of engaging all senses with words, creating an intense, sensuous experience that sometimes bypassed the mind and talked straight to her reader’s body.

You can find out more about the poet’s controversial life and tragic death in “Forough Farrokhzad, Iranian Poet Who Broke Barriers of Sex and Society,” one of a series of contemporary obituaries of “remarkable people whose deaths went unreported,” currently being published in the New York Times.

Forough Farrokhzad, 1960s. Public domain.

Finally, for a critical essay on her life and work, read scholar Farzaneh Milani’s article in the Encyclopedia Iranica, published out of Columbia University; or watch Milani’s lecture at the Library of Congress.

Meet the Translator

Sholeh Wolpé, by Bonnie Perkinson.

Sholeh Wolpé launched her career as a translator when she first began translating the “iconic rebel poet of Iran,” as she calls Farrokhzad. Find out which words are most difficult to translate, and read about a Christmas-Eve translation inspiration, in this interview with the magazine Words Without Borders.

A poet as well as a translator, Wolpé hates it when either she or Farrokhzad is referred to as a “poetess.” Read more of her thoughts on writing and gender in this write-up of a conversation with other women translators, also in Words Without Borders.

Finally, below, you can get a sense of the sound of Farrokhzad’s poems from this video of Wolpé performing them in English and Persian.

Hear the Names

Listen to pronunciations of the names “Forugh Farrokhzad” and Sholeh Wolpé,” read aloud by Sholeh Wolpé.

Hear the Original

Listen to translator Sholeh Wolpé’s reading of the beginning of the poem in Persian. She ends on the lines which she translated into English as:

I sensed that in the breeze
of his hands’ movements
the substance of my being
was disintegrating.

Finally, look at “Connection” in the original Persian.

Background on Iran
Two Iranian women walking down an alleyway with old buildings and parked motorbikes.

Alleyway in Hamoomchaal, by Kamyar Adl. License: CC BY 2.0.

New to learning about Iran? Read the country’s profile on encylopedia.com.

More From & About the Author

Listen to and read other Farrokhzad poems translated
by Wolpé:

Then, watch Farrokhzad tell the filmmaker Bernardo Bertolucci what the word “intellectual” means to her.

(Watch on YouTube.)

Then, explore Wolpé’s website farrokhzadpoems.com, where you’ll find a handwritten poem, perspectives on the poet and her influence, videos, and, of course, poems, beginning with a selection from Wolpé’s translation of Sin.

Finally, read a New York Times review of a recent novel depicting Farrokhzad’s life: “She Dared to Write Poetry About Sex. Iranians Loved and Hated Her for It.”

More from the Translator

Read an interview in which Sholeh Wolpé comments that: 

Persian and English are as different as sky and sea. The best I can do as a poet-translator is to create a reflection of one in the other.

Next, watch Wolpé perform her translation of a Persian woman poet from the nineteenth century named Tahirih. A respected scholar as well as a poet, Tahirih was also “the first woman to publicly unveil before a group of men.”

(Watch on YouTube)

Wolpé is also a poet. Read her biography and her poems Prisoner in a Hole and “I never seen such days as this” on the Poetry Foundation website.

Then, take a look at her latest collection of poems, Keeping Time with Blue Hyacinths, “a surreal journey of sorrows and sins;” and find out about her play, Shame, about family secrets. 

You can browse through through all Wolpé’s projects and translations (including of Walt Whitman!) on Wolpé’s official website and YouTube channel.

An Inspiration and a Peer

Sholeh Wolpé commented in an interview that a rebellious poet named Nima Yushij “attracted the attention of a group of brilliant young poets, among them Forugh Farrokhzad and Ahmad Shamlou.”
Nima Yushij went on to found modern Iranian poetry; learn about him in Wolpé’s interview, then read translations by Kaveh Bassiri in The Sink Review and Two Lines Journal.

In his introduction to this unit, scholar Amir Arian writes of Yushij:

If one is to mark a symbolic turning point, a year that launched the modern era in Iran, 1921 is a compelling choice. This is the year Nima Yushij published his long poem Afsaneh, in which he opened Persian poetry to the contemporary world and bravely brought “unpoetic” language into his art.

Next, read a poem from Farrokhzad’s fellow poet Ahmad Shamlou on WWB Campus. The poem, “Elegy,” was written in response to Farrokhzad’s sudden death in a car crash at age 32.   

Iranian poet Ahmad Shamlou

Iranian poet Ahmad Shamlou.

Farrokhzad's Influences

Charles Baudelaire, 1844.

Charles Baudelaire, 1844. By Emile Deroy. Public Domain.

For another Middle Eastern woman poet influenced by Baudelaire, try Iman Mersal, author of “Things Elude Me” and other poems on this site.

Who Was the American Forugh Farrokhzad?

Sylvia Plath, sitting sideways to the camera. Photo by Giovanni Giovannetti/Grazia Neri, CC by 3.0.

Read work from Farrokhzad’s American counterparts:

Censorship: Then and Now, Here and There

The New York Times reports that Farrokhzad’s poetry was banned for almost 10 years after the Iranian Revolution, “But that censorship only elevated her appeal to new generations of Iranians, who saw Farrokhzad as a symbol of artistic, personal and sexual freedom.” Find out about other cases of censorship, and their effects, below.

To learn more about government control over media in Iran, read:

  • An Iranian Metamorphosis,” in which a single word in a children’s cartoon gets a man thrown in prison
  • Amir Arian’s essay “Staring at a Digital Black Hole,” about a 2019 blackout of all social media in Iran (Arian wrote the introduction to our collection of Iranian literature)
  • What Iran did not want you to see,” in which a human rights researcher sifts through clues during the same 2019 blackout
  • A New York Times article about the Iranian’s government’s previous attempts to censor social media, which may have been influenced by a similar effort in Russia
  • The Committee to Protect Journalists’ page for Iran, where you can find out how many journalists are currently in prison for their writing. (The Committee to Protect Journalists is an independent not-for-profit human rights organization.)

Censorship happens worldwide. To learn more:

  • Follow a 2020 story of attempted censorship in Missouri, where State Representative Ben Baker has introduced the Parental Oversight of Public Libraries Act, aimed at “drag queen story hours.” Read Baker’s interview with NBC News and the American Library Association’s response
  • Browse the stories about U.S. censorship at Columbia University’s Knight Institute (newest stories at the bottom)
  • Find out which young adult and children’s books are most often challenged or banned in the U.S. in these lists from the American Library Association
  • Learn how the U.S. may be enabling censorship in other parts of the world in this Washington Post editorial
  • Visit the Taboo Topics section of our collection of literature from China
  • Read “My Grandmother, The Censor,” a personal essay by Masha Gessen
  • Watch protests against social media censorship in Russia

  • Read about the censorship of so-called “Fake News” in today’s Egypt

To find out about the state of free speech all over the world, visit the home page of the Committee to Protect Journalists and Freedom House.

More on Translation*

Other Love Poems in Translation:

Tang dynasty-era statue of a woman. CC BY-SA 2.0

*For Teaching Idea 1

More on Gender*

Women Poets

On WWB Campus

Elsewhere

On Gender and Writing

On WWB:

Habibe Jafarian, journalist and author of “How to Be a Woman in Tehran.”

Elsewhere:

Poet, essayist, and activist Audre Lorde.

On Twitter:
#LiftingWomensVoices, #Vida_lit, #WomenWrite, and #womenintranslation 

On Love and Gender

On WWB Campus:

  • Cavities and Kindness: A Japanese story from the perspective of a trans woman going through a breakup
  • Love’s Labor: Gender stereotypes and expectations among street vendors in China
  • The Wondrous Deer of the Eternal Hunt: An oral history of the life of a Russian gulag survivor; the interviewee says that Russian women “are prepared to suffer . . . but we’re terrible dreamers.”

Elsewhere:

*For Teaching Idea 2

Tip
1. Translating Persian Poetry: From the Sea to the Sky
2. Poet vs. Poetess: Gender and the Demand for Inclusion
To access these Teaching Ideas, please register or login to WWB-Campus.
English

The black of my irises,
those simple, reclusive Sufis of mine
swooned in the song-spell of his eyes.

I sensed him billow all around me,
radiating towards infinity
to the other side of life
like fire’s red pyramid,
like a cloud in spasm of rain,
like a sky embraced
by warm seasons’ breath.

I sensed that in the breeze
of his hands’ movements
the substance of my being
was disintegrating.
I sensed his heart peal inside mine
like the bell of a wandering sorcerer.

The clock took flight.
The curtain withdrew with the wind.
I had pressed him to myself
inside the halo of that fire
and I wanted to say something
but to my astonishment
his thick shadowing lashes
released themselves like silk strands
from the base of darkness
along desire’s long trail
and through the tremor
—that deathly tremor—
to the end of my end.

I sensed my release.
I sensed my release.

I sensed my skin crack from love’s dilating joy,
as my flaming mass melted slowly
and flowed, streamed and flowed
into the moon,
a turbulent blurry moon
drowned in a ditch.

We had cried into each other.
We had madly lived a moment’s
ephemeral union inside one other.


Translation of “Vasl,” from
Reborn. Translation copyright 2010 by Sholeh Wolpé. All rights reserved.

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