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Seda: Voices of Iran

Mahmud Kianush

(1934-    )

Mahmud Kianush, Iranian poet, writer, literary critic, and translator, was born in Meshed, Iran in 1934. He studied at the Teachers Training College and Tehran University. He published his first poems and short stories at the age of 16, while still in secondary school. So far, he has published 14 books of poetry, 9 books of short stories and novels, 12 books of poems and stories for children, several books of literary criticism, and more than 20 books of translations including works by John Steinbeck, D.H. Lawrence, Eugene O' Neill, Aime Cesaire, Samuel Beckett, Athol Fugard, Par Lagerkvist, and Federico Garcia Lorca.

He was editor-in-chief of the two leading Persian literary monthly magazines, Sokhan (Words), and Sadaf (Mother-of-Pearl). He also contributed, as writer and editor, to 5 bi-weekly magazines for children, teachers and parents, published by the Ministry of Education in Iran.  After eight years of writing poetry for children, he explained the principles that he had discovered and invented in a book entitled Children's Poetry in Iran, published by Agha publications, Tehran, 1973. As a result of this work, he became known as the founder of children's poetry in Iran.

He was a teacher for 5 years and then worked in the civil service until 1974, when he asked for early retirement. A year later he moved to England with his wife and children. For over 20 years he has been working in the Persian section of the BBC as a writer and producer. Among other things, he has written and broadcast more than 500 pieces of satirical poetry and prose.

Traveler in Soul

I am a traveler in my soul, 
And the World is standing still,
Counting the steps of Time.

I am Time
And pass through the World,
Looking at stars and ashes,
At clouds and deserts,
At birds and leaves,
At people and horizons.

I am a traveler in my soul
And pass above the World,
Seeing and hearing
Dreams and songs,
Agonies and hopes,
Praises and despairs,
Cradles and tears,
Coffins and smiles.

I am a traveler in my soul,
And free from all belongings:
Nowhere I belong,
I am Time, 
I am Freedom.

Our Struggle

Is it all in the hands of the wind?

Of all the winged seeds,

Falling from the tree,

Many are blown away

To the gutters of ignorance,

To the fires of greed,

To the deserts of prejudice;

And only a few happen to land

On the banks of the ever-flowing river.

The tree,

The wind

And our hopeful struggles.


It is easy for poets

To talk of love

In beautiful songs and sonnets,

Lamenting the sufferings of separation,

Or enjoying the delight of union

With a real or

               an imaginary beloved.

But of the real terror

That tears the heart of a crying child

Abandoned to its fate

Amid the burning debris of war,

No one has ever written

That great tragic ode

And it will remain unworded

To the end of man and earth.

It Still Remembers

If the Sky still looks pure
                                      and sacred,
It is not because we can see it
As the blue gate to Infinity,
To the Mystery, and beyond.

Pure and sacred is the Sky 
It still can remember
How the first Apple tree,
Pregnant with the thirst for Truth,
Yet blissfully smiling
With the glory of Doubt,
Began to bloom. 

The Sky is sacred, 
                             is pure, 
Because it still remembers 
How the first Tiller, 
In his trance of triumph, 
Reverently laid
A sheaf of the untasted golden Wheat
On the lap of his expectant mate 
To be blessed by her sagacious mouth.

But the Mother of Thought,
                                      the Earth,
Though not decrepitly forgetful,
Cannot remember anything,
Because the mirror of her memory 
                                      is darkened
With the thick layers of tortured Hopes
And the blood of unyielding Doubts.


every button is connected to a generator
it's the work of iron and the arm
at every corner a steel giant
sleeps on the oily floor
spewing a world of fume
there is an old friendship between patience
and tuberculosis in the chests of men.

Here the roaring typhoon of a thousand wheels
sucks the blossoms of words
off your lips before they bloom
and throws them out the chimney.

this is the storehouse of constant noisy explosions
voiceless lip gestures signal between hearts
every breast is a furnace, fueled by remembrance
remembering sunset
(when iron gates turn on their heels
and tired oily men
rush out silently
   in clusters)
remembering evening and home...
   how good, ah!
to learn back and relax
Kids making noise
the sound of pots and spoons in the kitchen
and then sleep,
   s-l-e-e-p ...

Translated by Manavaz Alexandrian



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