Reflections in a mirror


Martin Turner, who is on the Windmill Club’s committee, said: “It’s about making sure everyone has a bit of a laugh.”

Martin Turner, a spokesman for the Specialist Schools and Academies Trust (SSAT), organising the tour, praised the Chinese handling of the outbreak.

But after these three were dismissed, the middle and lower-order had little to offer except for 20 not out from Martin Turner, and the visitors were 139 for 9 after their 50 overs.

NHS Walsall spokesman Martin Turner said: “It is with sadness that we have to announce that a third person from the West Midlands who had tested positive for H1N1 swine flu has died. The death is under investigation.”

Visitors will also will hear Bible readings and worship songs and share Holy Communion, administered from the base of the plinth by Rev Martin Turner.

Camilla Parker-Bowles will be played by Joanna Van Gyseghem while Martin Turner will play Charles.

As the lead vocalist, bassist and principal song-writing force behind Argus, Martin Turner is delighted to be able to bring his creation to life once more.

But new research being carried out by Dr Martin Turner, a consultant at the John Radcliffe Hospital, Oxford, could help future sufferers by speeding diagnosis and improving drug treatment.

Just two weeks ago the Advertiser revealed that deputy head Margaret Southwood and assistant head Martin Turner were suspended amid allegations that attendance records were manipulated to boost the school’s rankings in league tables.

A police spokesman said Abigail Hancock and Sean Martin Turner of Langley Park, County Durham, disappeared after boarding a train in Durham at 4.23pm on Saturday.

Embedded among these various spaces is The Martin Turner Room … you can ask for this room at no extra cost and dine in splendid isolation among Martin Turner’s cartoons, which line the walls.

A mischievous mink caused eight hours of chaos when he sneaked into a busy city-centre store. Officers from the RSPCA  … laid traps baited with food and turned off the lights to draw out the mink … Martin Turner … added: “Whatever happens to the little guy, at least he won’t end up as someone’s coat.”

Another former Shelford player, Shane Roberts, pulled the ball back for Martin Turner to extend their lead before Lee Dawson ran through to finish off a fine result.

When I met Riedel’s Martin Turner he was armed with four glasses to showcase four different types of wine … Turner poured a bit of mid-price Sancerre into it. “Now swirl it,” he said, and as I did so, it slopped dangerously at the edges. “Now smell it,” Turner instructed.

Rehearsals are well advanced for “Lend Me A Tenor”, a hilarious full-length farce, which producer Martin Turner says “will make ‘The Full Monty’ look like a Sunday school picnic.”

Seven Ledbury men are all set to have their hair, beards or moustaches shaved off to raise money for a special school  … which caters for children with Severe, profound and multiple disabilities … [Among] the men taking part are … Martin Turner.

Martin Turner, the prospective Lib Dem parliamentary candidate for Stratford, accused the county’s fire and rescue service of producing a document that failed to use plain English.

Warning: Do not open this book to venture the streets of East London with jokester Martin Turner.  Leader of the “Gang of Three,” Turner doesn’t care about anyone but himself … nor can he grasp how to use  correct grammer and comprehensible sentence structure.

“It’s an interesting academic exercise to think what you should get,” says Martin Turner, a computer scientist specialising in fractal images at the University of Manchester, UK, “but it all depends on what properties you want to keep in the third dimension.”

This trio of boys from across the border are part of a growing number of Gold Coast teens turning their backs on their home town to celebrate their rite of passage in Byron. Eighteen-year-old … Brad Martin-Turner said they favoured Byron Bay because it was a holiday, not just a party.

The Hobbs’ problems multiply when Emily and Martin Turner stay the night. Emily, with her high-pitched, voice and Martin with his hair slicked back, bow tie and dark rimmed glasses, are a wacky couple.

Two of the cameras that comprise the EPIC instrument were designed and built at Leicester’s Space Research Centre by a team led by the late Martin Turner, one of the world’s leading experts in X-ray instrumentation.

The business was evacuated about 10:40 a.m. after a report of a robbery with an explosive device. Joseph Martin Turner, 47, of Orlando, was arrested the day of the incident.

Dr Martin Turner a Group Leader and Head of Babraham’s Laboratory of Lymphocyte Signalling and Development … said, “Studying how T cells develop helps us to understand healthy development, how T cells acquire specialised functions and what factors can cause lymphomas or other devastating illnesses.”

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Poetry is essentially about the unspoken – and even about the unsayable. No obscurity is (or should be) gratuitous.

No locutions that secretly intend to remain ultimately obscure.

All poems are ninety percent suffering and ten percent inscription.

To ask whether a poem is good is rather like asking whether a woman is beautiful.

Poetry is not poetry unless its meanings are infinite.

Poetry as a kind of impatience, as intuition coalesces into links.

Poetry is the flight of thought from thought.

The poet as capricious realist. A harp struck dumb by wind. A seer more than a sayer.

In such poetry there is an irreducible tissue of message, an irreducible residue of the personal.

Poetry may be the language of wisdom, its obscurity the tantalising of a higher sphere.

Poetry – the rare expansion.

Poetry, e.g. Eliot’s poetic drama, shames people through recollection of their own forsaken sensibility. The conspiracy against poetry, against religion. False visions of life.

Poetry: a sort of hidden corridor between one person’s memory and another’s.

The world of poetry is not the poetry world. Poetry’s all in a dwindle really.

It’s as much as I can do to write them [poems]. Anything else is beyond me.

Trespasses: if any of it is superfluous, all of it is superfluous.

Instructions to filial readers: You are to think of oak, mahogany, teak. You are to think of brass and copper. You are to think of firelight and the sound of a ‘cello.

Every thought is legible now as I become more fluent in the crumbling tongue of poetry.

Poetry: a wild bee swarm.

Nowadays two kinds of poetry contend: the rhetorical mode – the droning tapestry – and the testimonial mode of confessional authenticity, the art of the artlessly brave.  The word as flesh – the muse-of-language’s own tendencies to eloquence – has almost gone.

If you want to express yourself, then Kleenex tissues serve the purpose better than writing paper.

Beware when a vein of self-importance unites with a certain strain of self-expression.

I have watered the planet with my songs; I have softened its crust with my tears.

                  

Translation is a poetry of glimpses.

In poetry one can translate the poem’s thought, but not its thoughtlessness.

Of course most poetry does not translate completely or even a little. But as poetry itself becomes more hypothetical, what is to be preferred between a hypothesis and the ghost of a hypothesis?

I was once at a day conference in Cambridge with Josef Brodsky. He was discussing the specific translation of a Mandelstam poem, the difficulties, the possibilities. Few people can have understood the matter as well as Brodsky. Nevertheless the audience preferred to move to the more general level: the theory of poetic translation. No doubt they found it easier, more abstract.  Yet Mandelstam’s ‘Wolf’ poem remains one of the pinnacles of twentieth century poetry, even if that relatively sophisticated audience continues to know less about it than it might. It was deflected, cheated. The theory merely cleans up after the circus has left town.

A first principle of translation: Don’t make readers break stones! I have in my mind’s eye a row of well-disposed readers of poetry, chained together, breaking up rocks under the hot sun. Raise them hammers high! But be sure these guys are going to escape just as soon as they possibly can – and they are never, never, coming back. So the rules of translation are: don’t translate something you don’t understand, make a decision about what it means, build in interpretations, incorporate all information needed for a complete understanding, give the poem the propositional contours it needs; meaning should never be sacrificed for any reason whatever. Write in English the sort of independent poem that you think the author might accept as the fulfilment of his or her poetic aims. Rhythm and metre have different meanings in different traditions and low-level mimicry of local features usually entails unacceptably high costs. A crib is not a translation. Even a topically inaccurate translation (such as Mandelstam/Merwin’s Mounds of human heads…) can transfix the reader who will fall utterly in love with it and go to her grave reciting it in her heart of hearts.

A poem should have its own darkness, as a resource – like a fuel store or the captain’s map case. As Cocteau says,

Translation of poems. Obscurity translated: something always remains. Excessive clarity translated: nothing remains.[1]

                  

Questions of form in poetry seem to me to have to do with things like length. The question of the whole and its parts. Is the whole grand and are its parts small? Are the parts free-standing or subordinated to the whole? What is an optimum size of segment, verse or verse-paragraph? What is the right balance between imagery and argument?

In their classical heyday the Persians thought of poetry as a string of pearls, a concatenation of small morsels, interchangeable,  with order unimportant (topical autonomy).

Questions of rhyme and metre remain, but even these local questions are overshadowed by considerations of the relationship to speech: Is this natural, is it speakable? How would one say this? What is its tone?

In ‘Where the waves come from’ I rejoice at my discovery of a Mozartian form.

Poetry growing in the crevices like the lace of Alpine waterfalls (Hilton Park Rank services, Waterloo station).

Poetry and pressure make a kind of unholy matrimony in my life which I don’t begin to understand. Poetry as resistance. The poem as tranquillity recollected in emotion.

Imagination: a kind of unified sensibility. The sense media are as one. A metaphor is a kind of disembodied thought. We are swimming to the lighthouse.

Imagination is vision released from the moment — what you see, together with what you saw and what you expect to see. The prism whose drops of colour are clutched at by those without jewels.

These poems, which begin to be born into the light of day, were conceived without the possibility that anyone would ever read them. The veins, the ore, the threads of interconnection, were not conceived – or were not contrived – at all. Now I watch their birth with awe and fear, seeing much for the first time. Will their hidden inner architecture hold true – as others’ reading begins to eat into them?

Bringing a poem, brimming and slopping, to the page, aghast, as with a dream, at what is lost.

Wouldn’t it be wonderful to make a living by my pen. But after all, what does the market want but consumable writing? And I want the kind of writing that burns and burns and is not consumed.

Poetry is the friable face of life. Each and any movement truly seen is a poem already ignited, a smile after a long blank of reflection.

My current poetry has dwindled to impotent intensity.

Rhyme? My poems ring, they echo, they clamour.

‘Rathbone Market’: a tattoo, a tantrum, a tarantella.

People who should read more of the poetry of others do not, but concern themselves exclusively with their own; while those who should by rights concentrate on what they have to bring to the breadbasket of the world, waste time on the trifling efforts of others.

As regards poetic form, I am rough and ready, but also quite traditional, in the sense that one has to belong to what is authentic.

Being an unpublished poet is rather like being a sex-starved adolescent.

I write contorted prose and congested poetry.

The poet sways between Gnosticism and mysticism, but prefers enigma to obscurity. The enigmatic Gnostic.

My poetry: it’s all ecstatic to some degree.

All writing, even the most casual, requires a gathering of the whole self.

Poetry is fundamentally a revelation of mind.

Trespasses: never was so much silence created by so few words.

There are those who have nothing to say, and therefore imitate: as TS Eliot said:

A true disciple is impressed by what his master has to say; an imitator – I might say, a borrower – is impressed chiefly by the way the master said it. If he manages to mimic his master well enough, he may succeed even in disguising from himself the fact that he has nothing to say.[2]

People who write about themselves merely lack imagination.

                  

Such is the peripheral and tenuous nature of my connection to the literary world, when I send out an e-mail advertisement for my new book of poetry, each answers according to their bent. Thanks for telling me about your new book and, by the way, what do you think of Letterland nowadays (JC)? And by the way, how is T [your daughter] (SB)? And by the way, would you like to buy one of my watercolours (CC)? And by the way, did you know that R [my teenage daughter] writes poetry (CR)? Most do not reply at all: in their welcome silence, they are the kindest. On Amazon, I find that those who buy my Trespasses are those who also buy books by Margaret Snowling or Gavin Reid (dyslexia). All this cuts. I resolved, because of such disheartening experiences with family and friends, to give out no copies at all this time (Trespasses was often not acknowledged, even when it arrived on the doormat). Farah nevertheless pledges a copy to my sister, so I have to bail her out by signing and sending a copy of The Deer of Tamniès. I am, as the Economist said recently of Samuel Beckett in a rather good article (16th March 2006):

[…] the opposite of a self-promoter: intensely private and fearful of fame, he was more of a self-demoter.[3]

So this little effort of advertisement (as CC describes it) is forced, contrived and minimal. These are just the people who might be interested in poetry, or in me, or both. So dare I place any trust in what the bereaved and kindly CR wrote, after he received his copy?

The Deer of Tamnies came yesterday and I have been taking dips in it. It’s excellent – I don’t know what PK … can have been thinking of. Yes, I might have quibbled – here and there – but the general impression is of complexity, authenticity, discipline and delight. No doubt I have learned to appreciate some of the poems you showed me all those years ago, and that I failed to twig to then. So don’t worry if the world is slow to catch on – it will happen in time.[4]

By then, all these frustrations and humiliations – in the vale of soul-making in which ‘the poet needs constant discouragement’[5] – will have been forgotten by smoothing time.

With writers, one can always tell which ones stare at the wall and which ones stare out of the window.

Poetry is like that St Elmo’s fire [6] that plays along the back of Leviathan, startled from the depths of the night sea to haunt for decades the dreams of sailors.

Much of creativity is drifting. The fishermen hope that something will drift into their nets. But the fishermen themselves may be adrift.

                  

My words are dead. People instinctively don’t listen. I am the one to whom nobody listens.

Words that in their reckless excitement forget they are mere words.

He who cares just for words ends up with x-ray vision.

Words occasionally gesture beyond themselves to the ethos which, it is implied, sustains the shared understanding: “proper”, correct”, “reasonable”, “appropriate”. The appeal, beyond the jury-box, to the bench.

Inappropriate: now that’s a very interesting word. It enables one person to condemn another’s behaviour while concealing the moral source of his own. Unacceptable similarly draws a safe line without saying why. The judgement without the standard.

Happiness belongs to the domain of the unsayable.

A trail of words on a dry page.

Those who live by the word shall perish by the word.

Words are cold. They come from somewhere near the base of the skull and hover in a trough until a similar resting place opens up in the recipient. Who wouldn’t rather have a stave of flowing Fauré?

Dogma, elitist, mysticism … words or bricks? The twentieth century has given us sets of words that are worried to death, more weapons than words. We are ushered towards their irresistible, saturated meanings which, nevertheless, we seek to escape. Élitist seems now to mark a vacuity similar – if inverse – to that of vulgar a century ago.

I wear my quarantine of silence.

To abbreviate is to exaggerate.

Only the young have the gift of time, by which they immerse themselves self-forgetfully, open to every influence, in what they read. Write only for them? Or for the youthful of every age?

                  

It is the business of art to undress people.

A lamp or a pear? A pear or a lamp? The dilemma at the root of Western art.

I have a favourite passage from The Magic Mountain:

“I am extraordinarily relieved,” she said, breathing out, as she spoke, the smoke she had inhaled, “to hear that you are not a passionate man. But how should you be? You would have degenerated. Passionate – that means to live for the sake of living. But one knows that you all live for sake of experience. Passion, that is self-forgetfulness. But what you all want is self-enrichment. C’est ça. You don’t realise what revolting egoism it is, and that one day it will make you an enemy of the human race?”[7]

This reveals, in passing, a consumer attitude to culture and works of art. The artists produce the honey; the wealthy bourgeois sniff, sample and swallow it.

This is not how I think of poetry. We are briefly here, on this planet, talking to each other. Though mired in individuating circumstances, we delight to engage each other with stories, jokes and wise tips. Poetry is the best way of saying something, sometimes in English, a major language of the planet. Before we “snuff it” (favourite phrase of Katerina Anghelaki-Rooke’s) we want to pass on what we have learned about

[…] the art of living

to which all other arts minister.[8]

In my case, this is: Follow the golden thread … the thread, that is, of love. I write, not to look for love, but because I have found love. I write with love. I tread the path to the heart.

                  

Modernism had become a glass house in which everyone was throwing stones.

Wincing on broken glass of two World Wars, the harlequins scream, “Art! Art!” for their diamond world.

Reading and writing, the breathing of minds. Reading is chewing and the strong jaw lines an argument.

What is dying is not the book, but the reader.

Romanticism degenerates from good, formal structure to what is, in effect, a long haggard wait for the next impulse.

We write to win love, not for ourselves, but for our works.

The medium of the written word permits one to annihilate people without being sent to prison.

How soon and how inexorably does time reduce the trembling reputation to inertia, the sounding name to silence, the valiant memory to the stiff fungus of amnesia.

Two images of creation.  In one, trees are hacked down from a virgin forest, dragged to the river and are gently poled downstream to a mill.  In another, a watcher waits beside a broad forest pool to the surface of which, at intervals, by gravity, mysterious objects inexorably rise.

Most views of art are simplistic and the word itself is unfashionable, embarrassing. It has already lost its semi-sacred tone, with which it was originally invested by Arnold and other high-minded Victorian agnostics as an escape route from the Christian religion; indeed by the 1890s it had already been brought into disrepute by scampering aesthetes:

Though the Philistines may jostle, you will rank as an apostle in the high aesthetic band
If you walk down Piccadilly with a poppy or a lily in your medieval hand.[9]

Today, there is as little sense of high art as there is of high culture. Nevertheless, it is only the noblest achievement that need concern us. In any successful artistic transaction there are three parties, not the two – artist and medium – of popular belief. In addition to the skilled operator and the purposed work there is a third, unexpected party, the undisclosed and emergent character of the objective work of art. To this there are really only two possible attitudes — resistance or surrender — and only in the case of the latter does the true autonomy and power of the authentic work of art make itself manifest.

This is often an inconvenient surprise to the artist, incompatible with his or her intentions, and makes necessary the abandonment of old or the invention of new technical resources. The reader, auditor or receiver, too, may find the results awkward and offensive but, though there is no progress in art, there is always evolution within the continuing flow of tradition and second thoughts are often better than first ones. Thus time, too, is needed to cool the lava and settle the contours of what is truly original in the work of art whose power derives from its autonomy and where the rôle of the artist is subservient.

One can quite see that all this has more than a little in common with personal religion.


[1] Jean Cocteau, in Cocteau’s Past Tense: Diaries vol. 2. tr. Richard Howard. San Diego: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, 1988, p. 140.

[2] TS Eliot. From ‘American Literature and Language’, in To Criticise the Critic. London: Faber and Faber, 1965, p. 54.

[3] ‘Try again. Fail again. Fail better. But watch for the laughter behind the nothingness.’ From The Economist print edition March 16th 2006.

[4] E-mail 18th March 06.

[5] Robert Graves.

[6] ‘St. Elmo’s fire is an electro-luminescent corona discharge caused by the ionization of the air during thunderstorms inside of a strong electric field. Although referred to as “fire”, St. Elmo’s fire is in fact a low density, relatively low temperature plasma caused by massive atmospheric electrical potential differences which exceed the dielectric breakdown value of air at around 3 megavolts per meter.’ Wikipedia.

[7] Thomas Mann, The Magic Mountain (1924), tr. H.T. Lowe-Porter (1928). Harmondsworth, Middlesex: Penguin Books, 1960, p. 594.

[8] From A song of ascents, in The Deer of Tamniès, Baltimore: PublishAmerica, 2006; available at: http://www.publishamerica.com/shopping/shopdisplayproducts.asp?catalogid=12797

[9] Bunthorne’s solo in WS Gilbert’s comic opera, Patience (1881).

1-Would you please fully introduce yourself to our readers?

 

I am a fifty-five year old English man, an educational psychologist and a poet. I work with children who have difficulty with learning and have been head of psychology at the Dyslexia Institute, a national charity, for the past twelve years. In 1992, Faber published a collection of my poems, Trespasses, which includes three shorter poems of Sohrab, translated with my Persian wife, Farah. A second collection, Where The Waves Come From, is being prepared for publication.

 

2-Have you spent all your life on cultural and literary works or is it just a hobby for you?

 

It is a passion. I wrote my first poem – an elegy to a dead sheepdog – at the age of eight.

 

3-How did you get familiar with Iran and Persian language? How did you learn Persian?

 

I know little Farsi. Though married to an Iranian, I have acquired an advanced knowledge of about six words! All my translations have been done in collaboration with others, first, Abbas Faiz, an Iranian journalist friend resident in Britain, then my wife. The best translations are done not by linguists but by poets. Even if I mastered the Farsi language, the childhood experiences that poems refer to would be forever denied me.

 

4-Tell us more about your translations and publications. How long did it take to accomplish the translations?

 

I worked on Persian poetry throughout the 1980s and only stopped when the pile of unpublished works began to mount up. Then I concentrated on getting them published which, eventually, they all were. We still translate bits and pieces now and then, but nothing very systematically.

 

5-Your wife (I suppose? or?) Farah, has a beautiful semi-Persian name, and I guess she must be Iranian and a good translator as well; what was the role of her in accomplishing this task?

 

Though not herself a writer, Farah is well-educated and has lots of specialist knowledge – of plants, herbs, textures – useful for Sohrab. She also knows some Arabic language and much classical Persian literature.

 

6-Why did you choose Modern Persian Poetry and why Sohrab in particular? Why not Nima? Why not other contemporary poets?

 

By chance, really. Sohrab was the particular passion of my friend, Abbas. I quickly got to like Sohrab’s character – quiet, humorous, imaginative – and felt an affinity with his spiritual intelligence.

 

7-Tell us more about Sohrab, the Sohrab you discovered through words and lines of poetry. How do you see him?

 

His paintings are quite a good guide to his poems; both achieve a large effect through colour and being in tune with nature. Sohrab writes about direct, everyday experience – he is not ‘difficult’ in the sense of metaphysical, at all – and all ingenuities can be matched, sooner or later, with something in one’s own experience. I made it a point never to translate something I did not understand … through some haphazard approximation – but always to build in the desired interpretation, so that the English reader would not need intrusive footnotes.

 

8-Which sources have you made use of?

 

There is Hasht Ketab [Eight Books] which is a well-edited, reliable text. There are few good written commentaries or critical writings in English about Sohrab, and there were even fewer in the 1980s. Instead I sought out people who actually knew Sohrab and got them to talk about him.

 

9-The best line you remember from Sohrab? Any poem you like best? Any comments on his paintings? How do you see Nature in Sohrab’s works? Is there any difference in it with other works about Nature by other poets? As an English scholar, whom do you see in English Literature closest to Sohrab? Is there any?

 

One of the main attractions in translating Sohrab is the sense of something new, something absent from English and American literature. My favourite (I think) is Mosafehr [The Traveller] but the whole slow movement of Seday-e pay-e ab [Water’s Footfall] is very compelling also. Long poems in English do not feed one quite as these poems do. The same can be said of Forugh’s Iman beyavarim [Let us rejoice at the coming of winter]. In Sohrab’s art, nature is almost – not quite – God; but the eye in the midst of everything does not quite close.

 

10-I have noticed a distinct diction and a deliberate choice of words in your translations, some really good and new, that shows lots of contemplations on each. I just want to know how did you find the words you wanted?

 

This is the case with the writing of poetry, perhaps, not just the special case of translation. Cliché and formula are to be avoided. And the spirit of the age – journalism! A bigger challenge that lies behind the choosing of words is that of providing a transition from one culture to another. This provoked much the most thought!

 

11-Have you seen the UNESCO translations of Sohrab’s poems, if yes, what’s your comments on that?

 

I have seen a UNESCO cultural heritage series of translations – of different works by different hands. These represent a laudable and ambitious attempt to bring these excellent works before a wider, international audience. People are always somewhat ethnocentric – content with their own national ways – and many will never take an interest in ‘foreign’ literature. But there is also an important minority of more adventurous and courageous readers, willing to make friends with the new.

 

12-Let’s turn to Forugh, what was interesting for you, as a translator, in Forugh’s poetry? Do you believe she has been a Feminist poet?

 

Forugh was more difficult for me, as a man, to approach, especially as she writes about her torn marriage and the loss of her son. She is certainly an important figure for the history of her times from a feminist point of view, but perhaps this ‘pigeon-hole’ is ultimately too limiting for her, as she herself eloquently said. Pigeon-holes are for pigeons.

 

13-Some say Sohrab is little difficult for common readers, mainly because of his farfetched metaphors, but Forugh is simpler, and more favoured; whom do you favour more?

 

They much respected each other, as I’m sure you know. I hope this comment is not true, because if Forugh is ‘easier’ now, then she may have less to offer in the future. I like to think of both these colourful boats sailing down the centuries.

 

14-Any line from Forugh you like best?

 

She is hard to excerpt from, since the sense carries on from sentence to sentence like prose, leaving thoughts unfinished, but I always like:

 

Ah those dark pupils of mine,

Sufis settled to solitude,

were lost in the chanting of his eyes,

and closed

 

from ‘Connection’.

 

15-Let us talk a little about the audience. How much is modern Persian poetry, especially Sohrab’s, known among English readers and literature fans? How much do they know about it?

 

Next to nothing, I’m afraid. But as with Omar’s Ruba’iyat in the Edward Fitzgerald translation, which surfaced quite by accident in a Suffolk bookshop, it could have a very large appeal because of its simplicity, immediacy and ‘otherness’.

 

16-Regarding your own books, how do you see the reaction of English audience toward your books? Was it a success?

 

There is such a small audience for poetry here, it’s hard to tell. Publishing Trespasses certainly didn’t change my life, as Wendy Cope told me it would, but the book sold its thousand copies, is consulted over the internet (for which I receive fees) and studied by school children – older ones.

 

17-What are your plans for future? Any other poet or book for translation?

 

It’s bad luck to talk about one’s plans. I would have to give away secrets (children’s fiction? a novel?).

 

18-Any plan of visiting Iran? By the way, how you ever been in Iran? If yes, when and how? How many times? Have you visited Kashan, Sohrab’s hometown?

 

I’ve actually never visited Iran, though I have family there, and would love to come to Kashan as well as Shiraz, Tabriz, Isfahan and Tehran – such romantic names. I’ve often made plans but so far they have never materialised. Perhaps soon!

 

19-In your opinion, how could we introduce our poets, especially Sohrab and his prophet-like messages to the entire world? What are the necessary steps toward making a universal picture of poet and at the same time remaining loyal to his message?

 

I shouldn’t worry too much about the “entire world”, but a film about his life, made for television, would certainly help. Then readily available, good quality translations.

 

20-The last question, what is your definition of ART?

 

I suppose for me all art has to do with what lifts us out of ourselves. Great art is a glimpse of the permanent, hence is a form of worship, relieving us of the confining cage of our petty, selfish concerns and fixed points of view. Art breathes the air of freedom, the air that greets the chick as it steps out of the egg.

 

21-At the end, do you have any words for Iranian readers? Say whatever you like, any quote, and anything?

 

I greet you, Iranian readers! Your imagined youth fills me with dangerous optimism. Let my last words be about your literary tradition. A tradition that cannot accommodate the new is in a bad way. Equally, the idea of revolution – as in ‘modernism’ – is a short-term excitement. Nothing looks more old-fashioned, now, than such literary modernism. The aims and achievements of poetry, of all literature, are forever the same, always concerned with nature and history, with the world and the human predicament. In art creation and innovation occur as renewals in the tradition which is essential for their existence. So let me enjoin you to study your enormously rich tradition with sure love, while expanding and encountering new tracts of experience and new modes of voicing. Your confidence will grow from combining the past with the present.

 

 28th August 2003