The Atlanta Review has published my poem, “Persia”, about a region that has been largely destroyed by ongoing wars and yet is among the world’s most beautiful, in terms of its landscape and rich cultural history, particularly its poetic tradition. Today, 1,600 miles away, in another country with a beautiful national heritage, Ukrainians are being brutally and senselessly attacked and killed. So many lives shattered. For what? So much continuing bloodshed. My poem contains a fervent wish to end all wars, as well as a salute to people’s ongoing resilience in the face of them.
More background, for those interested: One of the most influential poets in Iran’s proud literary tradition is beloved 14th century Sufi poet, Hafiz. The tradition continued into the late 1970s, when “Ten Nights of Poetry” readings attracted thousands and emboldened protesters against the Shah during the Iranian Revolution. The poems’ coded messages of solidarity—“dark winter”, “crimson dawn”, “red rose”, “blood”— contained some of the same imagery that appeared in different contexts in Hafiz’ lush, romantic work. More recently, protesters spilled into the streets of Iran, following the assassination of Iranian military officer Qasem Soleimani by an American drone strike. The image, in an NPR report, of a protester bearing a crimson flag over her black headscarf, so that the words “Hard Revenge” rippled behind her, was the spark for the poem. I only became aware of some of the 1970s coded language after I wrote it.
Thank you, Atlanta Review, for publishing this poem (my first). And thank you for reading.