On YouTube you can view hundreds of clandestine copies of the unofficial people’s anthem of Iran, “Ey Irani.” The identities of these underground musical artists remain unknown but the viral impact is political dissidence. On the streets of Tehran in 2008-2009, the song lyrics of Malek O’Shoara Bahar offered resistance to tyranny.
The Green Movement and the Arab Spring now interest Americans as social media and political activism come home to Wall Street. Poetry, not ipods, sweeps people into the streets of Tehran.
Every so often, a writer emerges whose words give voice to a nation’s deepest feelings, words that continue to inspire long after the writer has gone. In Iran, a country that reveres poetry above all art forms, that man was the poet Malek O’Shoara Bahar (1883-1951). While his outspoken criticism of the government brought imprisonment, exile, assassination attempts, and harsh reprisals for his family, Bahar remained unbowed, writing fiercely until his death. Today, his words ring out once more; sung and chanted as anthems by the protesters, who find their own voice in his call for justice, freedom and an end to corruption.
“Morghe Sahar” is another poem of Malek O’Shoara Bahar also used by Iran’s Green Movement Martyrs as a form of political protest. Morghe Sahar in Farsi means “mourning dove.”
Malek O’Shoara Bahar’s daughter, Parvaneh Bahar, has written an eloquent manuscript about her father and the inspiration he provided in her own life. Parvaneh Bahar wrote an autobiography written in Farsi under the title Morghe Sahar: Khaterat Parvaneh Bahar (2003, Nashreh Shahab Publishing Company). It became an instant bestseller in Iran, Afghanistan and Tadjikistan, and went into its fourth printing before the publisher was closed down and disappeared. Ms. Bahar lives in Washington DC and wanted to introduce her father to an American audience during these difficult years of relations of Iran.
Ms. Bahar’s own story begins as she shared her father’s exile, visited him in prison, accompanied him to Switzerland when he went for treatment of the tuberculosis he developed in prison, and stayed by his side until his untimely death. Parvaneh grew up her father’s daughter amidst the intellectual and political turmoil of her father’s involvement in the democracy movement in Iran. Her childhood home was a focal point for intellectual life in Tehran.
Parvaneh Bahar worked with Joan Aghevli to translate her Persian autobiography into English and substantially revise it for a Western audience. Their book introduces this poet, parliamentarian, political agitator, academic and family man. The book offers two life stories woven in and out of each other throughout the book. One strand follows the life of Ms. Bahar from her birth in Tehran in 1929 to her present life as a US citizen, and examines the impact of her father’s teaching in such decisions to liberate herself through education, travel to Selma to march behind Dr. Martin Luther King, and work towards the first National Women’s Political Caucus. The other strand – and this is the powerful warp thread upon which her life is based – is the story of her father.
Larson Publications released The Poet’s Daughter: Malek O’Shoara Bahar of Iran and the Immortal Song of Freedom last month to critical acclaim. Recently featured here, Larson Publications’ motto is “Global Awareness, Individual Awakening.” Known for their books on Rumi, translated by Coleman Barthe, Larson Publications proved the perfect match for my clients, Parvaneh Bahar and Joan Aghevli.
What a joy to see this important new book published.
One thought on “The Last Persian Prince of Poetry”
A beautifully written review to accompany a beautifully written book. Thank you.