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The Love Poems of Ahmad Shamlu

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Ahmad Shamlu (1925-2000) is among the most celebrated figures of contemporary Iranian literature. The poems presented here, capture Shamlu’s unique depictions of love. The narrator in these poems is a man intoxicated by the love of a woman; a woman whom we meet in the body of his love poetry; a female presentation whose characteristics are not fixed.

Due to Shamlu's widely recognized prominence within the intellectual opposition, the mainstream approach to his poetry has largely evaluated it in terms of the socio-political background of the poet's era. Taking issue with this limiting approach, the present work emphasizes an alternative reading of Shamlu, based on a primarily aesthetic analysis of the theme of aphrodisiac love in his poetry. More specifically, the present text is focused on the poet/lover's meditation on a beloved elevated to the stature of a goddess. This woman's metaphoric identity casts her as the muse and the audience. She is, with all her attendant dangers, the poet's realization of beauty and desire for being.

The Love Poems of Ahmad Shamlu incorporates poems that trace the development of the relationship among the lover, the beloved, and love, in Shamlu’s poetry. The selection includes poems that go back to the beginning of Shamlu’s career when he was still experimenting with language and style in search of his own poetic voice. The chapters preceding the poems in translation, provide some insight into the life of Shamlu as well as his poetry.

This work has valuable scholarly and pedagogic implications. While it is a contribution to the scholarship on the work of Shamlu, it also provides a concise translated collection that can be useful for students of Persian language and literature. This work can also serve as a textbook for courses in comparative and Persian literatures. Considering the growing interest in Persian poetry during the recent years, this book will further be of interest for audiences beyond speakers of Persian.

Keeping these points in mind, Arthur Lane and Firoozeh Papan-Matin have translated the poems such that any reader, regardless of their language background, could grasp the original intent of the poetry and experience it as would a reader of Persian. The methodology has been to follow the original poetry as far as possible; where this proved awkward or obscure the translators have been guided by the rhythms and idiomatic usages of Modern English. Consequently a reader who is not familiar with the Persian language and its cultural intricacies will be nonetheless equipped to appreciate this poetry and its sublime qualities.


Part One: Ahmad Shamlu’s Background
Part Two: Defining Moments in the Work of Shamlu
Ayda in the Mirror
Selected Bibliography of Shamlu’s Works
Part Three: Poems in Translation
The Winds
The Sleeping Woman
The Long Ode
The Fish
The Closed Door …
Rhapsody of One Returning Home from the Alley
Four Rhapsodies for Ayda
Ayda in the Mirror
From the Wound of Aman Jan’s Heart
On Serious Soil I Stood …
The Key
Mirror Orchard
I Love You …
Within an Instant
End of the Game
A Cry


Firoozeh Papan-Matin is Assistant Professor of Persian literature at the University of Washington, Seattle. She received her Masters in English Literature from California State University Northridge. She received a second Masters and a Doctorate in Iranian Studies from UCLA. Her dissertation research is on twelfth century Islamic mysticism in Iran. She has published articles on classical and modern Persian literature. Her forthcoming book is Kashf al-Asrar: the Visionary Autobiography of Ruzbihan Baqli.


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