Ahmad Shamloo (1925–2000) is most remembered as a pioneer of Farsi free verse poetry, but his various literary contributions as a journalist, translator, and children’s writer left him as a highly praised but controversial figure in twentieth-century Iranian literature.
Shamloo’s politically charged epic language mixes Biblical symbols and tone with simple lyrical imagery. As a translator, he re-invented poetry by Federico García Lorca, Langston Hughes and Margot Bickel for a Farsi readership. While trying to depart from conventional Farsi poetics, he extended upon Nima Yushij’s manipulation of traditional Persian rhyme and rhythm by introducing the concepts of a ‘poetical event’ and an ‘inner rhythm’. The combination of his two main themes – love and freedom – created poems that are regularly quoted in times of turmoil, while functioning equally well outside of a political atmosphere; the very same poems can often be read by an outsider as purely romantic works. The present poem is taken from Abraham In Fire (1973) and the original translation from which Karen McCarthy Woolf worked was prepared by Ehsan Norouzi, with help from Stuart Denison.