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Seda: Voices of Iran

Maryam Hooleh

Maryam Hooleh was born in Tehran in 1978 to a Kurdish family. She left Iran, illegally and on foot, for Greece. She stayed one year, which led to her second volume of poetry, In the Alleys of Athens (1999), the censored version of which is her only published book in Iran. In2 003, she was invited to participate in the Iranian Women's Studies Foundation, with whom she published her third collection, Cursed Booth. Her other books include Inferno Inc., Leprosy Now, Kites Will Never Fly Away in My Hands, and The Sticky Dreams of a Banished Butterfly. She currently resides in Sweden.  

Maryam Hooleh, an accomplished poet as young as the 1979 Iranian Revolution, speaks of her generation's daily struggle with dictatorship and repression. Her poetic voice is rebellious and daring, and she is particularly skillful in scrutinizing and questioning her society and identity. Incongruous imagery, offensive tone, confrontational style, dark humor, and powerful polemics are unmistakable components of Hooleh's work, perhaps best described as "protest poetry." Her poems constantly challenge authority and official narratives, in any shape and form, resulting in an alternative viewpoint that is dynamic and infused with social and political awareness. Niloufar Talebi, the award-winning translator of contemporary Iranian verse, writes of Hooleh, "Her poetry is irreverent; she questions everything; nothing is off-limit to this scrutiny." This tone is evident in "The Sticky Dreams of a Banished Butterfly."

Source: Frontline:


The Sticky Dreams of a Banished Butterfly(excerpt)

The flower I sent you yesterday wilted on the way


But smell its stem!

I'm still coming toward you....

Civilization has devoured my fears

I no longer fear beheadings on my breathing platter!

It would have been fair if at least

I would have had a hand in MY OWN DIGNITY

Is smiling mandatory? To increase my card's privileges

with my uniform and hair dye!?

Me whose lines are unclear in this revolt for selfhood

In a bourgeois scheme I have no color in!

In a free European country

A naked gene tans under the sun, like everyone else

It's hard to know how far humanity here will take us!

I don't fear the sting of mosquitoes

But if I leave my body whose uniform will I be?

I take issue with my soul since it became a socialist

on Resurrection day



I want my hands

My glasses The dead borders of happiness!


I want my differences

My bad luck, my birth certificate

I want the earth to drop dead!

Headless, Civil Society is posing

It its uniform for a black and white photograph!

--Translated by Niloufar Talebi


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