Parvin E’tesami, Renowned Iranian Poetess

Parvin E’tesami, a famous Iranian poetess, was born on March 16, 1907 in Tabriz, and died on April 5, 1941.

Parvin E’tesami was unique in her poetry. She chose not to offer her talent and poet to the kings and powerful, nor did she choose the superficial and populist romantic and lust poetry. Instead, she chose a novel humanist style by which she expressed the pain and sufferings of ordinary people in their own simple language.

Parvin E’tesami’s father, Yousef, was a well-educated and prolific scholar. Parvin learned Farsi and Arabic from her father. She later attended the American Girls School in Tehran to learn English. In her graduation ceremony in 1924, she wrote a poem describing the miserable life of Iranian women. She noted in her poem that lack of awareness was the main reason for women’s inferior status in Iran. In a later poem, entitled, “Women in Iran,” she highlighted Iranian men’s chauvinism, the prevalent patriarchal culture, and its profound adverse impact on the Iranian women’s status.

During her time, Iranian women did not have any place in poetry. But Parvin, who had begun writing poetry from a young age, was able to publish her work when she was still a teenager. When her poems under her name, Parvin, were published in Bahar magazine, no one believed that they were written by a female. Being a woman was the primary reason that Parvin’s work could not find its way at the time into more published outlets and earn its true status.

In July 1934, at the age of 28, Parvin married his father’s cousin. The marriage did not last more than two months, and she returned to her father’s home, heart broken.

Her father, Yousef E’tesami, who was her only true companion, died on January 2, 1938.  In 1938-39 she worked for several months at the library of Danesh-Saraay-e ‘Aali (it is now Tarbiat Moallem University of Tehran).

Parvin E’tesamiThree years and three months after her father’s death, at the midnight of April 5, 1941, Parvin died of illness. She was buried near her father in Qom.

Parvin was socially very aware and she knew clearly the forces that ruined the future and opportunities of the poor and have-nots. She used her talent, knowledge and skills to angrily expose these dark forces. She used terms like “bloody claws,” “bloody boots,” and “darkness evil” vs the “broken hearts,” “tearful eyes,” “dried lips of orphaned girls,” and the “bent backs.”

In her poetry entitled, “The Old Lady’s Complaint,” she portrays an old lady who is fed up with a corrupt ruler who has left people nothing but misery.

Parvin did not believe the misery of the destitute to be eternal. She believed the cycles of depression and repression would end when people rise up and resist. She wanted people to be determined and remove the barriers. In her poetry, she shows the way out of desperation and toward emancipation: resistance and brave activism.