Letters From Iran

From Azadeh Kamyar

Taste of sun


I can still feel it in my mouth

the taste like sun

ravenously we drank together

from a bowl full of  snow


Call me

Winter is close …

I don’t live in Tehran.  This crowded metropolis is not a proper place to live for such an introverted person like me. But it is undeniable that Tehran is not only the capital city of Iran but also the beating heart of art in the country.  Most of my art-loving friends live there.  Whenever I miss them I have no choice but to go there with a long list of friends to visit.  Vahe Armen has never ever missed the list.

This Iranian-Armenian poet was born in 1961, in Mashhad, Iran.  He studied sociology in London, but now lives in Tehran.  Besides writing poetry, he is a poetry translator.  Through his translations from and into Persian, a thread of exchanging literary works has been established between Armenia and Iran.

On a day in the winter of 2010, under the lifeless sun that was trying to warm the exhausted body of the pavement, one of my friends and I went to meet Armen.

It was Christmas time.  His lovely house was decorated for the occasion. We had a conversation with him about everything, from political conditions of the country after the disputed election in 2009 and the endless flow of our friend’s emigration, to publication issues and governmental censorship that got worse day by day. Then all three of us fell silent.  It seem we were looking for a good news to talk about, a little good news that we forgot and if we could remember, it might warm us like the winter sun.

The only sound we could hear was of the pigeons’ that were coming to eat the seeds Vahe shed on the window ledge to feed them in the winter.

When I was leaving his house he gifted me his last book “After Cranes Passing.”  The two poems translated here have been published in that book.

What has seduced me about his poetry is his childlike creativity.  He looks like a king of toy town with a paper crown on his head, playing with words to create his own world.  Accompanying him in the play, we can watch his world and meet the usual characters of his poetry; mother and child, poet, prostitute, monk, temple, General, war and love.

Tragedy occurs at the moment of confrontation between the innocent world and the real one.  Armen narrates such a tragic story in a way that it seems a very natural part of life. In one of his poems, “Survivors”, he sets a scene that implies a party but there is no trace of any guest.  What has left from the party is a gun that has no bullets anymore and an empty wine bottle.  It seems that we, readers, are the only survivors of an unknown tragedy. As soon as we comprehend that now we are the guests, the grief, our first reaction to the party turns to horror.

Armen doesn’t play with words but lives the words.  There is a proverb in Persian, what rises from heart sits on heart.  It may be the reason his works are so popular among all classes of society.

A grey lane and a box of colored pencils


In a sterile silence

You cry

And in my poetry

A baby will be born


You stay behind the closed doors

And in my poetry

A goldfinch on the window ledge

Will die from cold weather


You smile in the mirror

And in my poetry

An enormous cloud

makes love with the sea

you dink a sip of wine and

in my poetry

all words will be drunken


you turn the key of your home in the lock

and in my poetry

a woman takes the sun to her house


you pass by a temple and

in my poetry

a new goddess will Fall

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