Sohrab Sepehri was born in Kashan on October 7, 1928; a very talented artist and a gifted poet, Sepehri shot to stardom with the publication of The Water’s Footfall which was subsequently followed by The Traveler and The Green Volume. Sepehri died of blood cancer in Tehran in 1980.
Sepehri is so popular with the Iranians that he is usually known by his first name ‘Sohrab’ as if he is a friend everyone knows and understands. Sohrab traveled beyond the normal trajectory of everyday meanings. He translated speech into a language hitherto unknown to the Iranians. A pioneer poet, he utilized western forms and deconstructed the normal way of poetry. His use of new forms in poetry makes him complicated to understand. Yet, readers find themselves so attached to him and his poetry that there remains no room for boredom. Readers are so immersed in his poetry that they sometimes forget the world of realities and experience a fresh recognition of man and the whole universe.
Sohrab was the Child of Nature. Just like a child nestled in the bosom of his mother, Sohrab finds rest in the bosom of nature. He regards great respect for nature and whatever is relevant to it. He looks at Nature and the creatures within it in the manner of a lover who sees no faults in his beloved. He is a true worshipper who loves God and His creatures, believing that one has to plant the flower of love in his heart for the entire universe. To Sohrab, love is everything.
Well-versed in Buddhism, mysticism and western traditions, he mingled the western concepts with eastern ones, thereby creating a kind of poetry unsurpassed in the history of Persian literature. To him, new forms are new means to express his thoughts and feelings. His poetry is, indeed, like a journey. Every time you read him you understand him differently. There is a bottomless ocean of meanings in his poetry.
Sohrab takes us into a journey of an unknown world where ugly things become beautiful and despised objects become a center of attention to the readers.
I don’t know
Why a horse is a noble animal, and a dove is lovely
And why no one keeps a vulture.
I don’t know why a clover should be inferior to a red tulip.
We need to rinse our eyes, and view things differently.
We should wash our words
To be both wind and rain.
In his worldview, beauty is not an abstract concept; it is created and strengthened by people. He follows Shakespeare in that there is nothing good or bad but thinking makes it so. Therefore, he invites us to wash our eyes and view the world differently. Sohrab left us a miracle of words and meanings.
Past the border of my dream
The shadow of a morning glory
Had darkened all these ruins
What intrepid wind
Transported the morning glory seed to the land of my Nod?
Beyond glass gates of dream
In the bottomless marsh of mirrors
Wherever I had taken a piece of myself
A morning glory had sprouted
Forever pouring into the void of my soul
And in the sound of its blossoming
I was forever dying in myself
The veranda roof caves in
And the morning glory twines about all columns
What intrepid wind
Transports this morning glory seed to the land of my Nod?
The morning glory germinates
Its stem rising out of my transparent sleep
I was in a dream
Flood of wakefulness overflowed.
To the view of my dream ruins I opened eyes:
The morning glory had twined all about my life.
I was flowing in its veins
It rooted in me
It was all of me
What intrepid wind
Transported this morning glory seed to the land of my Nod?
There was a woman at the door
Standing with a body as ever
I approached her:
Her image flooded my eyes.
Speech turned into wings of passion and knowledge.
Shadow turned into sun.
I walk out in the sun
I was carried away by pleasing signs:
I went as far as childhood and sands
As far as delightful mistakes
As far as abstract objects
I neared picturesque waters
And trees full of pears
With an ever-present trunk
I breathed with the wet truth.
My feeling of wonder mingled with the tree.
I perceived I abutted on the throne of God
I felt a bit distraught.
Man goes to seek solace
When he feels crestfallen.
I did too.
I went as far as the table
The yogurt’s taste, the fresh green plants
There was bread to eat with a cup and saucer:
My throat pined for a goblet of vodka.
The woman was there at the door
Standing with a body of deadly wounds.
An empty can
Kept paring away
The water’s throat.
Still nestled by springs,
Indulged himself in his azure philosophy
In the delicate indolence of a meadow.
His thoughts flew with the bird.
He breathed with trees.
He was submissive to the poppy’s conditions.
Intrepid meanings of the waters
Roared in the depths of his speech.
In the text of the elements
And woke up
In dawning fear.
The strange music of growth
In the frail joints of his joys
And dust settled
On his struggling knees.
His creative fingers,
Idled and got lost
In precise geometrical grief.
O you lost in the stellar green wonders!
The fig of ignorance
Epitomizes the virgin rocks
The heart of water is pining
For the reflection of a garden
The everyday apple tastes of illusion in the mouth.
O old fear!
My fingers went numb when you came to me.
My hands know no fear:
Tonight they pluck fruits
From the branches of myths.
Each tree bears
As many leaves as my fears.
Audacious speech thawed in the burning meeting of eyes
O colorful beginnings!
Protect my eyes from the evil magic:
I am still
Unknown nocturnal blessings.
I am still
Look like ancient magic words.
On the meadows
We had our last carnal feast before words began.
In this feast, the music of stars
Fell upon my ears from inside the potteries.
And my eyes reflected the swarms of migrating magicians.
O ancient mirror of narcissus in sorrow!
Ecstasy carried me away.
– To the realm of growth?
Let us drink water of wisdom when we thirst for speech.
The pure modesty of speech
Flows under the strewn legacy of night:
Before syllables came into being,
The living had their resurrection.
From among the rivals
Arrogant speech cracked my jaws.
I, wading knee-high
In pure vegetable silence,
Bathed my hands and face in the sight of objects.
Then, in another season,
My shoes got wet
With the word of dew
Then, I sat down on a rock
And listened to the pebbles migrating past my feet.
Then I perceived
That each branch
Escaped the season of my hands.
O counterfeit night!
My kerchief filled with unripe clusters of prudence.
From behind the wall of a deep sleep,
A bird flew out of intimate darkness
And took my kerchief away.
The first pebble of inspiration echoed under my feet.
My blood tenderly hosted the space.
My pulse swam over the elements.
No, what am I saying?
The illumination of window warmed up the listener’s cold body,
My fingers traveled in the direction of love.
To the realm of words
In a strange dream.
The wind will murmur something.
An apple will fall,
Roll over the graceful earth
And traverse the distant home of night.
Illusions will cave in.
Will see the sad vegetable mind.
Ivies will entwine to watch the grace of God.
Secrets will emerge.
The roots of piety will wither away.
The murmuring waters
Will give light
To the dark roads.
The mirror will understand with its heart.
A friendly breeze
Will agitate roots of meanings.
Wonder will flap its wings.
Deep in the night, an insect
At the green portion of solitude.
Morning will fall
Into the word of morning.
(Translated by Ali Salami)
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