The Mountain Of Your Body Is A Strange Poem


Alireza Abiz, our bridge translator during this workshop, explained that Shooka Hosseini is writing poetry that boldly contests the social, political and intellectual norms of contemporary Iranian society. Hosseini has gained particular acclaim as a poet whose mastery of form and understanding of the Persian tradition is utilised to new and challenging effect.

This certainly seemed the case with this poem, where the speaker identifies early on with the mythic character Tahmineh. Alireza explained that, according to the Persian legend of Rostam and Sohrab, Rostam is seduced by Tahmineh (the daughter of his host) when she appears in his bedchamber and declares her love. The couple are married and she becomes pregnant with a son that Rostam will eventually unwittingly kill. Tahmineh was also, so the story tells us, the first woman to give birth by cesarean section and, as one of our regular workshop attendees noted, in Hosseini’s poem the culminating image of the something “Pouring from my dress / Red white black and a little purple” recalls the palette of births.

Tahmineh’s actions and choices act as the trigger to a colossal story within the legend of Rostam and Sohrab and as we worked through Hosseini’s poem we tried to retain this sense of agency in the speaker’s voice. We preferred the active but future-focused “will” to “shall” in the refrain line, despite the slightly elevated tone of the poem. Another allusion is to a famous line of Rumi’s, which Alireza recited for us by heart. Here, Hosseini breaks Rumi’s line (“Me drunk and you insane, who will lead us home?”) with the urgent interruption of “I will rise / Screaming / Shouting”. Again, the voice is decisively active. The interruption of such a revered canonical poet is a bold sign of conviction and yet, as elsewhere in the poem, the logic of sense is beautifully nuanced and ambivalent - granting the speaker an active role to enact her fate.

Edward Doegar, Commissioning Editor