Art And Culture

A Recollection of Critiques

The more Sepehri became popular among people and the literati, the more he was censured by other poets who based their criticism on his detachment from people and politics
Sohrab SepehriSohrab Sepehri

October 7, 1928 saw the birth of a child in Kashan, Isfahan Province, who later became one of the most celebrated Persian poets in New Poetry or Free Verse.

Sohrab Sepehri (1928-1980) was born on that day in autumn to devote his life to art and literature.

“I am from Kashan. My life is not bad. I have a loaf of bread, a speck of intelligence, a morsel of talent,” said the celebrated poet.

On the occasion of his 87th birth anniversary, Honaronline reported a few critical comments about Sepehri made by prominent Iranian poets.

“I should take some time to reread his poems. Maybe I will change my mind about his works,” poet, writer and journalist Ahmad Shamlou (1925-2000) said of Sepehri. “ I mean, by this that his poetic mysticism which seemed out of social context  in the years following the 1953 coup in Iran, may now make some sense.”

With involvement of the US and British governments, the notorious coup was conducted against Iran’s democratically elected prime minister Mohammad Mosaddeq (1882-1967) in favor of the monarchical rule of Mohammad Reza Pahlavi on August 19, 1953. The coup followed Iran’s parliamentary vote to nationalize oil industry and limit the control of foreign corporate representatives over Iranian petroleum reserves.

Shamlou quoted Sohrab’s famous poem, “They drag innocent people to gutter and slit their throats, while I stand a couple of paces down the stream and say: ‘Let’s not muddy the water.’” Those words are way too beautiful, too astonishing. But, beauty is not enough.

“Sepehri is different from all others, according to Forough Farrokhzad, poet and film maker (1935-1967).

“His world of thoughts and emotions is among the most interesting places for me. He doesn’t talk about a specific place, age or people. He speaks of human life, and thus acquires vastness.”

Of Sohrab’s poems in his ‘Hasht Ketab’ (a collection called ‘Eight Books’ and published in 1976), “four or five poems are not so bad. They are witty and delicate, and influenced by Farrokhzad’s poems in many ways, I think,” opined a pioneer of Free Verse Mehdi Akhavan Saless (1929-1990) about Sohrab’s famous book.

Only his few recent poems have a message as is expected of a poem. In his previous poems “he wandered around in vain,” trying to do something different never done by others. He eventually returned to simplicity and tried to get close to the people.

“He was a wandering seeker whose paintings were far better presented than his poems. Maybe he was looking for a way to connect with the people, which he finally found in his last poems.”

  Turned Back to Chaotic World

“Sepehri unfortunately turned his back to the chaotic world,” said novelist, poet and critic Reza Barahani, 80, referring to his poem ‘Traveler.’

Writer, poet, literary critic, editor and translator Mohammad Reza Shafiee Kadkani, 76, sees Sohrab’s poems as a chain of independent verses that are rhythmically linked together. “There is seldom a poetic structure in his works.”

With his ‘Sound of Water’s Footstep’ he achieved success in style, but the very style became his bane in ‘We Nothing But Look’.

“The more Sepehri became popular among people and the literati, the more he was censured by other poets. They based their criticism on his detachment from people and politics,” said writer and literary scholar Sirous Shamisa, 67.

“Sepehri is among the greatest contemporary poets. His prominent place, along with that of Forough, is becoming more evident in the course of time; unlike ideological poets who fade away with time … He has achieved ontological and epistemological greatness in his poems,” Shamisa added.

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