Forough Farrokhzad (December 29, 1934 – February 13, 1967) was the first Iranian poet to promote the culture of women in poetry.
Expressing her thoughts on discrimination and inequality, Forough described Iranian women’s untold suffering.
In a letter dated January 2, 1956, Forough wrote, “My wish is for Iranian women to be free and equal to men. I am fully aware that my sisters in this country suffer from men’s injustices, and I use half of my art to articulate their pain and anguish.”
“I need poetry above eating and sleeping, something like breathing.”
Forough Farrokhzad was born in Tehran on December 29, 1934. A famous contemporary Iranian poet, she published a collection of five volumes: Captive, Wall, Rebellion, Another Birth, and Let Us Believe in the Dawn of the Cold Season.
Forough’s poetry symbolizes a woman imprisoned by ancient traditions and seeking the light. Her depth and thoughtfulness were perfectly articulated in her work, Another Birth, published in 1963.
Another Birth dealt with the social conditions of the time, including dictatorship. In this work, Forough described a lonely woman who was on the verge of a cold season, and therefore seeking light and heat.
And this is I
a woman alone
at the threshold of a cold season
at the beginning of understanding
the polluted existence of the earth
and the simple and sad pessimism of the sky
and the incapacity of these concrete hands.
For Forough Farrokhzad, poetry was not for entertainment. Rather, it was a means to achieving a goal. Describing poetry, she said, “It’s a responsibility I feel for myself.” She equated being a poet with being human, saying, “One must be a poet at all times, not just during poetry.”
But she believed deeply that she needed to first make and complete herself.
Forough’s brilliance in poetry draws from the human content of her works. After the Shah’s coup d’etat against Iran’s nationalist leader Dr. Mohammad Mossadeq, she called all of Iran a prison. In her poetry, Forough longed for a bright future that was free of oppression and darkness.
Someone is coming,
someone is coming,
someone who in his heart is with us,
in his breathing is with us,
in his voice is with us,
someone whose coming
can’t be stopped
and handcuffed and thrown in jail…
Forough Farrokhzad’s works have been translated into English, Turkish, Arabic, Chinese, French, Spanish, Japanese, German, and Hebrew.
Cinema as a means of expression
In addition to writing poetry, Forough focused on cinema.
In 1962, Forough Farrokhzad made the film, “The Dark House,” featuring lepers and their living conditions in a leper colony. The film reflected Forough’s deep emotions about disadvantaged people.
The film won the Best Documentary Award at the Oberhausen Film Festival in Germany in the winter of 1963.
“Cinema is a means of expression for me,” Forough said of her cinematic debut. “If I’ve written poetry all my life, it doesn’t mean that poetry is the only means of expression. I like cinema. I will work in any other field I can. If I can’t write poetry, I’d act in the theater. If I can’t act, I’d make a movie. What’s important is for me to be able to express myself, of course if I have anything to express.”
The greatest woman poet of the millennium
“A thousand years of literary history will recognize Forough as the greatest woman poet,” said Mohammad Reza Shafi’i Kadkani, a contemporary poet. “No intellectual has fought tradition better than Forough did.”
Pen masters equate her artistic value to that of the prominent Iranian poet, Ahmad Shamlou.
No article or conversation could do Forough’s work justice. She was one of the greatest contemporary Iranian poets who remembered to fly and achieve unity and light in her poems.
Why should I stop?
I am a descendant of the trees;
breathing stale air depresses me;
a bird which died advised me to remember the flight;
the ultimate extent of powers is joining
with the bright origin of the sun
and pouring into the understanding of light;
Why should I stop?
Tragically, Forough lived for only 32 years. She was killed in a car crash on February 13, 1967.
Forough held the deep belief that love is the only cure for humanity. She wrote:
“Do goodness then forget it, someday it will grow.”
The mullahs’ misogynous and anti-culture regime banned Forough Farrokhzad’s books at the annual book exhibition in Tehran. The regime also prohibited publishers and bookstores from displaying her posters. (The state-run Tabnak website – May 11, 2011)
In 2016, Forough Farrokhzad’s home in Tehran’s Darrouss neighborhood was demolished. On November 2, 2016, the state-run Mehr news agency reported that a five-story residential building was being built in place of the home of Forough Farrokhzad.