Tehran letter


Note: A little sky and a bit of greetings later became the title of one of Ziayi’s collections
published in 2015 by H & S Media, London

Our translator Alireza Abiz told us that this poem by Iraj Ziayi is the final one in a collection called This Bird Has Come From the Time of Seljuks (Cheshmeh Publishers, 2011) in which the speaker journeys around Iran, sending ‘letters’ from each place he goes which create a kind of psychogeography, mapping the personal onto the historical landscape.

The second line was the cause of much discussion. Was being given a small sky and some stars a wondrous gift? Alireza told us the tone in Persian is, in fact, more one of complaint – we imagined a small postcard with a half-hearted courtesy scribbled on it.

There was also much debate about the allusions – ‘they came and killed and burnt’ would be very recognisable to Iranian readers as a famous eyewitness statement relating to the thirteenth-century Mongol invasion. Should we italicise it to flag it as a quote? In the end we decided against – the poem is so full of ambiguities that attempts to spoonfeed the reader might also fix meaning in a way we felt would diminish it. ‘We changed ‘no news on the western Andisheh 2’ to ‘all quiet on…’ though, so at least that allusion would be clear.

On the surface ‘Tehran letter’ is a short clear poem, but it’s full of deep mystery. The river disappears, the speaker, the bird from the window, the second line… the poem almost unwrites itself.

Clare Pollard, Poet-facilitator