Islamic and Friendship Studies at Oberlin College

Ibrahim Chaudhry Response Paper 6

Behbahani: The wine of light

Simin Behbahani is one of the most prominent modern poets, and her prominence in the poetic realm emerges as a product of the fact that she introduces certain unique notions and perspectives, which we shall discuss through an analysis of the poem, The wine of light part of which is below:

It is a monster and his mad eyes, volcanoes of rage and blood

Spew molten lava, crimson and purple , to my side.

He is a monster who in darkness, with greed and

Extortion,

Demands from me the stars I so cherish.

He opens his tyrannical hands and I cry out;

I must find a stone in this darkness to prevail in this battle.[1]

Bhbahanis poetry is unique owing to considerable amount of passion she is able to convey. Illustratively, language such as “rage and blood” create more vivid imagery surrounding the passions of our poetess and it is this combination of imagery and passion that is so significant about Behbahani. This is because of the fact that it conveys more clearly the varying emotions the poetess possesses and allows readers to understand the exact intensity of these emotions along with the bearing they hold on the soul of Behbahani.

Furthermore, Behbahani fears not from depicting love in an unconventional light. While the giants of Persian poetry like Rumi suggest that love is a source of hope and fulfillment as may be seen below:

Show thy face, for I desire the orchard and the rose-garden;

Ope thy lips, for I desire sugar in plenty

O sun, show forth thy face from the veil of cloud,

For I desire that radiant glowing countenance.[2]

Behbahani however inculcates realist philosophy in her works for instance: 

If at my time of death you see me again

Know that the time is now, come.

Others’ footsteps I imagine to be yours,

My heart shall burst from beating so please come.[3]

She dissents from the likes of Rumi by arguing that love has a negative side to it: infatuation. If the love of the admirer remains unrequited it serves as a burden on the soul of admirer causing them to obsess about it even in the face of death where, arguably, one is to have greater concerns. This allows a wider reading audience to relate to the sentiments presented by Behbahani, for they are not fanciful rather they embody the suffering so many failed lovers throughout time have been undergone. Thus, Behbahani emerges as a hero and spokeswomen for the commoners and the fallen.

Behbahani: My Country I Shall build you again[4]

Another poem of Behbahani that is rather revealing is “My country I shall build you again”[5] because it leaves the reader with certain insights to evaluate. Primarily, Behbahani allows us to understand that contrary to popular belief Poetry is inextricably linked with politics. She illustrates, through this poem, a fiery patriotism that may even be deemed nationalist – clearly taking a leaf out of the book of politics. Her purpose is to encourage readers to embrace this passion and emotion and work towards rebuilding Iran which is effectively what a politician would do through a speech or manifesto. 

The brilliance of Behbahani is illustrated by the fact that she remains correct even today regarding her assertion about the connection between politics and poetry. This is because the likes of President Obama have been seen quoting Persian poetry in political speeches in this very decade. [6]

Sohrab Sepheri: Night Alone

Sepheri is so significant owing to the fact that he does no limit himself merely to the expression of thoughts. Rather he articulates himself in a manner such that the reader is presented with a guide to life that combines Sepheris emotions and thoughts.

A poem that attests to this is Sepheri’s “Night Alone.”[7] In it he dictates that one should constantly exert himself in the way of excelling rather than stagnating. He suggests that even if one must sacrifice on necessities like sleep we are to do so for the sake of excelling constantly:

Rouse, Rouse! Blink awake, put on your shoes, come along[8]

Resultantly, he introduces a Dervish-like style of life as adopted by Shams where one continues to move from point to point rather than settling. However, that is not all for Sepheri because he suggests that this constant movement is not merely a physical practice, at the core of it this physicality is the enhancement of one’s soul. Hence he claims:

Seeing eyes drenched with love could teach you a thing or two…[9]

Thus the reader is told to constantly exert himself but for the purposes of learning , enhancing and enlightening his/her soul through the experiences we may encounter as well as through the people we may encounter. 

What questions are these contemporary poets mostly dealing with?

Behbahani

Behbahani is particularly concerned with emotions that were suppressed earlier. This is because she is a pioneer in Persian poetry because she is amongst the first few women to indulge in Persian poetry. This allows her to serve as a representative of the emotions and thoughts that had been previously suppressed. Consequently, Behbahani’s poetry is full of much more passion and emotion because her verses serve as a means of catharsis for all those women who owing to patriarchy had to kill off their sentiments rather than have them expressed.

Sepheri

Sohrab Sepheri is largely concerned with the status of man and how to best work with that status. Sepheri’s philosophy seemingly suggests that all living entities, by virtue of them being living, hold a high status in nature. Amongst, these creatures falls man as well and because this high status, a responsibility falls on man to do justice by it. This is the question Sepheri seeks to answer: how can man do justice to the responsibility of his high natural status? The answer he provides, in poems like Night Alone, is that we can respect our natural status by constantly struggling to improve ourselves and prove that we are fit for this status.


[1] Behbahani, Simin. Simin Behbahani: Selected Poems. Trans. By Khalil, Sara and Ed. by Beard, Michael, Tehran: Sokhan Publishers.

[2] Rumi. Rumi: Divani Shamsi Tabriz. Ed. and Trans. by R.A Nicholson, Cambridge University Press, 1973.

[3] Behbahani, Simin. Simin Behbahani: Selected Poems. Trans. By Khalil, Sara and Ed. by Beard, Michael, Tehran: Sokhan Publishers.

[4] Behbahani, Simin. Simin Behbahani: Selected Poems. Trans. By Khalil, Sara and Ed. by Beard, Michael, Tehran: Sokhan Publishers.

[5] Behbahani, Simin. Simin Behbahani: Selected Poems. Trans. By Khalil, Sara and Ed. by Beard, Michael, Tehran: Sokhan Publishers.

[6] Bani Adam. Wikipedia. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bani_Adam (Accessed 1st October 2019).

[7] Sepehri, Sohrab. 2013. The Oasis of Now : Selected Poems. Rochester: BOA Editions Ltd.. Accessed December 5, 2019. ProQuest Ebook Central.

[8] Sepehri, Sohrab. 2013. The Oasis of Now : Selected Poems. Rochester: BOA Editions Ltd.. Accessed December 5, 2019. ProQuest Ebook Central.

[9] Sepehri, Sohrab. 2013. The Oasis of Now : Selected Poems. Rochester: BOA Editions Ltd.. Accessed December 5, 2019. ProQuest Ebook Central.

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