Introduction by:  Farideh Hassanzadeh (Mostafavi)*
Edited By:  Christina Pacosz**

Who is Nima Yushij?

I think poetry is not creatable. It exists in time and place. The poet’s fate is remembering its existence by forgetting the time and place. 
The poet, unable to stand still, is eternally in transformation and birth. The poet knows he is without self and will never find his true self. He is not content with life, for he is not content with death. This is why he begins to doubt, so that so he stands out of the circle of time and place, like a hypothetic point. Out of the circle, the poet is the living possibility of existence and his solitary struggle makes the world of the circle possible. 
Nima Yushij ‘s solitary struggle as a true poet made possible freedom for Persian poetry that was in chains of rhyme and rhythm for long centuries.
Ali Sfandiari (1896-1959), the father of modern Iran poetry, when he decided to publish his poems, choose the pen name Nima Yushij, which means: an innovator from Yush (a village in the north of Iran). A simple shepherd, the son of a farmer, started a revolution in Persian poetry:
With my poetry I have driven the people into a great conflict;
Good and bad, they have fallen in confusion;
I myself am sitting in a corner, watching them:
I have flooded the nest of ants. ***
Nima in his biography writes:  
My early life was spent among herdsmen and horse breeders, who in search of meadows, migrate between distant summering and wintering grounds, and at night get together for long hours around the campfire in the mountains.
In the year, that I came to the city, my close relatives forced me and my younger brother, Ladbun, into a Catholic school. At that time this school in Tehran was known as The Higher School of St. Louis. My education started here. The first years of my life in school were passed wrangling with kids. The fact that I was withdrawn and shy, peculiar to children raised outside of town, made me subject to mockery at school. My art consisted of making a good jump and escaping from the school grounds with my friend Hosein Pezhman [who would later become a new-classical poet]. I did not do well at school. Only my grades in art [drawing and painting] helped me, but later on at school the care and encouragement of a good-tempered teacher, today's famous poet Nezam Vafa, thrust me into writing poetry.****
Mahmud Kianush, well known poet and translator in his book "Modern Persian Poetry" writes:
“What made Nima Yushij a great, powerful guru for the young poets of his time were his innovations in form and style rather than the content of his poetry. In this way Persian Poetry, while maintaining its own independence, gained after a thousand years the unbounded freedom of prose. This was the real achievement of Nima Yushij and the reason for his being acclaimed as the founder, or the father, of modern Persian poetry....”
 “No poet’s voice can be exactly recorded in the medium of another language.”
 This is the view of Elaine Feinstein, the translator of Marina Tsvetaeva’s poems. I admit that translating Nima’s poems is particularly impossible, because in spite of his free verse, “so many linguistic devices which he powerfully exploits are simply not available in English.”
On the other hand Samuel Hazo, great poet and translator, in his essay “So true as to be invisible” says: without translators attempting the impossible, what would be the consequences? We would of necessity be limited to our native literatures. Americans would know their Whitman, their Eliot, their Cummings, their Hart Crane, their Robert Frost, and their Richard Wilbur, but they would not know Dante Alighieri, Goethe, the great Hebrew poets of Spain, the pre-Islamic Arabic poets, the poets of China and Japan, etc….And this absolutism incarcerates us within the prison of our own language, leading us back to being citizens of the ground floor of Babel, where no one would understand or try to understand the literature of anybody outside of his own linguistic tribe.
This is why I have translated a few poems by Nima, the great Iranian poet who belongs to the world, and his letters addressed to young poets, for through his prose we may find his poetic essence even brighter.
I am enormously grateful to my friend Christina Pacosz, a very fine poet, for her enthusiasm and warm concern which helped me complete my translations, and I never forget her precious assistance in checking the English text very carefully.


Farideh Hassanzadeh* Farideh Hassanzadeh ( Mostafavi) is an Iranian poet and translator.  Her published translations include: T.S. Eliot's selected poems, Federico Garcia Lorca: A Life, an anthology of contemporary African poetry, the selected poems of Marina Tsvetaeva, women poets of the world, Latin American poetry in the 20th century, and Iaroslav Seifert's selected poems. Her anthology of contemporary American poetry will appear in the autumn of 2007.


** Christina Pacosz has been writing most of her life and she has published several books of poetry, the most recent, Greatest Hits, 1975-2001, Pudding House, 2002. She teaches urban youth in Kansas City, Missouri.
***This translated poem is from the book: "Modern Persian Poetry" by Mahmud Kianush
****From Majid Naficy's "Modernism and Ideology in Persian Literature; A Return to Nature in the Poetry of Nima Yushij" (University Press of America, 1997), pages 30-37.

Poems by Nima Yushij
Translated by: Farideh Hassanzadeh (Mostafavi)
Edited by: Christina Pacosz


At nightfall
I keep waiting for you.
At nightfall
While shadows are thickening
In the branches of talagen*
Making lamplit lovers gloomy
I keep waiting for you.
At nightfall
While still valleys
Are sleeping as dead serpents
While ivy twines about
Jupiter’s foot
Whether or not you remember me
I will never cease to remember you
I keep waiting for you.

My Home Is Cloudy

Cloudy is my home
The earth all over is clouded by it.
Dark, drunk and faltering
The wind whirls over the mountain pass.
The world all over is faltering.
And my spirits!
O Flute player! Where are you?
Gone to the far side of the road with your solo song.
Cloudy is my home but
cloud has begun to rain.
Dreaming my lost bright days,
I behold my sun on the sea.
The world all over is dark
And drunk by the wind.                 
And there! On the road--
The Flute player
Ever playing his flute
Going on his way
In this cloudy world.

By the River

By the river loiters the old turtle.
The day is a sunny day.
The rice paddy is warm.
The old turtle nestles on the warm lap of her sun,
And sleeps by the river.
By the river only I
Am weary of desire
Waiting for my sun
But my eyes don’t see it anymore.
My sun has veiled herself
In faraway waters.
For me
Everything is shining everywhere
Either of my tarrying
Or my hurrying,
It is only my sun
not shining
by the river.


Letters by Nima to Young Poets
Translated by: Farideh Hassanzadeh (Mostafavi)
Edited by: Christina Pacosz

To my shadow-mate (1)

How would you like to have some advice from me as provisions for your journey? The thing you search for, has long been conceived in you.
This is also the way poetry works: one should first be conceived, next become pregnant like a woman, then be patient, and finally give birth. 
Now that you hold a newborn in your arms, remember all the pain, patience, and time that was devoted to bear him.
Do not expect your newborn poem to be ideal for everyone. Don’t join hands with such worthless writers whose introductions proclaim: “Yes, my poetry is first class and I am the greatest poet of my times.”
I have likely mentioned to you many times, though, and there is no harm in repeating it: “You have come into existence by time and should be known with time.” The people who give you support are just like you are. Disguised in friendship or by any social grudge, your selfish character has already been transmitted to them. No one else’s point of view is infallible, but time which proves judgment in many generations who come and go.
Let have such a supporter. If you like to see the color of wine, you should wait for it to turn into dregs.
In spite of all self- glorification and the need for public admiration, never use poetry as a means for earning a livelihood. 
When you are exalted above people and feel superior to all others, you have already stained this superiority and nobility by vanishing it with your vanity. Write poetry only for yourself. If it’s a hard task for you to do so, let it go! It is quite useless.

To my shadow-mate (2)

Strength is not denial. It is taking others as our own self and looking through their eyes. If we disagree with their writings, we should still be able to enjoy  it as much as the author does himself. If you are deprived of such ability, then be sure that you are deprived of enough strength in your own work.
A poet should be able to be himself and others. He should be able to leave the “self” temporarily. This is essential. I advise you don’t be so self-centered, proud and self-absorbed. This is the reason you can’t leave the self of yours. This is why you can’t enjoy works written by others.

To my shadow-mate (3)

My dear! Do you find in your solitude the sincerity and purity that are needed? Ask yourself the answer my dear! No one knows what you are doing and no one can see you.
Do you see the unseen things?
Do those persons appear in front of you whom you would like to meet?
Does the corner of your room turn into a view of the sea?
Do you see the distant future, so many years after your death when (somebody who is not yet come into the bud), later, is writing in his privacy about your work?
Whenever all these realities come into being and your small room can hold a world in it, then there is no doubt of the sincerity and purity of your solitude. But if it is not this way, be sure that your solitude is superficial. It is like the solitude of a businessman who is counting his money behind a closed door. Your heart is not with you and you have lost yourself.
Begin to purify yourself. Begin to clarify yourself. The solitude of which we speak is an essence of our sincerity and purity. Not anything else.

To my shadow-mate (4)

You had asked me: ”Are all the people poets? How is it that everybody writes poetry in our country? “
I reply in short, for in these days I am very anxious and distressed.
It will suffice to give you a simple example: in a house in which there are too many children, and a mason is working, his tools are in children’s hands.
In the world of art, in every field, you can see the same thing. This is why in most of the aristocratic families, an idle piano is in one corner of the drawing room.
Most of the young play violin and there is no mortal who doesn’t sing. But everybody is not a pianist and everybody is not a violinist. They have merely in their hands the instruments of the poet , the pianist and violinist.
As for the poets, their instrument is congenital, their ability in rhyming words, which is the most simple work in our language. It seems they are born rhythm makers.
I add only one point to this subject: there are selfish, naughty and impudent children who will never admit their foolishness and crudity.


A part of Nima Yushij’s letter to his wife Alieh:
Translated by: Farideh Hassanzadeh (Mostafavi)
Edited by: Christina Pacosz

Most men treat women in a way they could not bear if women treated them in the same way.
They buy a woman like a rug. Cruel and indifferent, they spread that rug under their foot and trample on it. And finally they sell it without any sympathy toward it.
For crushing and suppressing women, all religions, all countries, in both old and modern eras have special laws and customs. I don’t know why!
I only know why I am not able to be indifferent. God divided all blessings of the earth among His creatures. He gave the people money, selfishness and cruelty, but to the poet he granted heart. And to that heart, he bestowed a mysterious power to be crushed and suppressed, facing woman’s beauty and power.
 Come my dear! Crush me forever! Imprison my heart for revenging female on male!


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