The Beautiful Words and Rebellious Spirit of Iranian Poet Forugh Farrokhzad

The Beautiful Words and Rebellious Spirit of Iranian Poet Forugh Farrokhzad

Tuesday, 10 November, 2020

Persian poet Forugh Farrokhzad was gifted with an innate curiosity and intelligence that fueled her rebellious spirit and passionate nature. She poured her too-large emotions and razor-sharp observances into poetry that has moved readers for decades.

Born in Tehran on 5 January 1935, Forugh was one of seven children in a household dominated by her army colonel father and her mother, a devout and dutiful homemaker. As a teenager, she fell in (forbidden) love with a distant older relative, then married him, despite her parents’ wishes. The union resulted in a son named Kamyar and her first poems, as she bristled against the constraints of being a homemaker.

In her poem The Captive, published in 1955, she wrote, ‘I, in this corner of the cage, am a captive bird.’ and ‘O sky, if I want one day to fly from this silent prison, what shall I say to the weeping child’s eyes.’

She eventually did leave her husband and son to throw herself into a love affair with Nasser Khodayar, the editor of the journal Roshanfekr, which published her poetry. When their relatonship eventually ended, Khodayar marked their breakup by publishing a series of stories about Forugh in his magazine, deeply hurting her and exposing her to ridicule of the very society that had previously embraced her. The betrayal and stress caused a mental breakdown and suicide attempt.

When Forugh recovered, she left Iran for the first time, finding both freedom and a renewed sense of confidence in Europe. When she returned to Iran, she became involved in film making and continued to write poems. By 1964, her star seemed to be firmly on the rise as her notoriety and successes mounted. But her life ended tragically: Forugh died in a car accident, at the age of 32, on 14 February 1967.

Forugh Farrokhzad is arguably one of Iran’s most important 20th-century poets. According to Fatemeh Shams, assistant professor of Persian literature at the University of Pennsylvania, ‘Many people who left Iran in the 1980s [after the revolution] took three books with them: Saadi, Rumi, Forough.’

The novel Song of a Captive Bird tells the life story of this remarkable talent. Inspired by her letters, films, interviews, and the treasure-trove of her poems, it celebrates Forugh’s persistence and innate gifts. She was a feminist, a poet, a fully-realized woman with thoughts and desires of her own, in a time and place when that was not to be tolerated.

We’ve shared two poems below. For more on the poet and her works, visit the Forugh Farrokhzad website.

illuminated pages of a book written in farsi
Photo courtesy of Ashkan Forouzani/Unsplash.

Forgive Her by Forugh Farrokhzad

Translated from Persian by Sholeh Wolpé

  • Forgive her.
  • Sometimes she forgets
  • she is painfully the same
  • as stagnant water,
  • hollow ditches,
  • foolishly imagines
  • she has the right to exist.

  • Forgive
  • a photo portrait’s listless rage,
  • whose longing for movement
  • melts in her paper eyes.

  • Forgive
  • this woman whose casket is washed over
  • by a flowing red moon,
  • she whose body’s thousand-year sleep
  • is perturbed by the night’s stormy scent.

  • Forgive
  • this woman who’s crumbling inside,
  • but whose eyelids tingle still with dreams of light,
  • whose useless hair still quivers hopelessly,
  • infiltrated by love’s breath.

  • People of the land of plain joys,
  • you who have opened your windows to the rain,
  • forgive her,
  • forgive because she is bewitched,
  • because your lives’ fertile roots
  • burrow into her exiled soil and pound
  • with envy’s rod her naive heart,
  • until it swells.


On Loving by Forugh Farrokhzad

Translated from Persian by Sholeh Wolpé

  • Tonight from your eyes’ sky
  • stars rain on my poem,
  • my fingers spark, set ablaze
  • the muteness of these blank pages.

  • My fevered, raving poem shamed by its desires,
  • hurls itself once again into fire, the flames’ relentless craving.

  • Yes, so love begins,
  • and though the road’s end is out of sight, I do not think of the end.
  • It’s the loving that I love.

  • Why shun darkness?
  • The night abounds with diamond drops. Later, jasmine’s intoxicating scent
  • lingers on the spent body of night.

  • Let me lose myself in you
  • till no one can find my trace. Let your dewy sigh’s fevered soul
  • waft over the body of my songs.

  • Wrapped in sleep’s silk
  • let me grow wings of light,
  • fly through its open door
  • beyond the world’s fences and walls.

  • Do you know what I want of life?
  • That I can be with you, you, all of you,
  • and if life repeated a thousand times,
  • still you, you, and again, you.

  • Concealed in me is a sea: how could I hide it?
  • How could I describe the typhoon inside?

  • I’m so filled with you
  • I want to run through meadows,
  • bash my head against mountain rocks, give myself to ocean waves.

  • I’m so filled with you
  • I want to crumble into myself like a speck of dust,
  • to gently lay my head at your feet,
  • cling fast to your weightless shadow.

  • Yes, so love begins,
  • and though the road’s end is out of sight,
  • I do not think of the end
  • for it’s the loving I so love.

For more of Farrokhzad’s poetry brilliantly translated by Sholeh Wolpé, get your hands on Sin: Selected Poems of Forugh Farrokhzad.


Song of a Captive Bird

by Jasmin Darznik

Burning with an intelligence and a rebelliousness that couldn’t be contained, Iranian poet Forugh Farrokhzad poured her passion into words that have inspired readers for decades. This is the unforgettable story of her too-short life. Forugh grew up in a traditional, mid-20th-century home in Tehran with rooms split between women’s and men’s quarters. It was a house that ‘turned from the world and cast its gaze inward, a house whose women believed the very walls listened for sin, a house where we whispered the truth or didn’t speak it at all.’ This domain was ruled by a father she was to refer to only as ‘Colonel’ — never father; it was forbidden — and a mother trapped in the spiral of tradition and fear. {more}

This novelized biography (432 pages) was published in February of 2018 by Ballantine Books. The book takes you to 1950s and '60s Iran. Melissa read Song of a Captive Bird and loved it; it wouldn't be on our site if she didn't recommend it. is an online bookstore with a mission to financially support independent bookstores and give back to the book community.

Song of a Captive Bird: A Novel


Top image courtesy of Soroush Taheri/Unsplash.

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