Tavallaei – Poems as Short as Life

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From the Introduction by the Author

As an Iranian, I am interested in our inclination to versifying, the ability to write in verse forms, and I love the unique Persian language, meter, and diction that take advantage of well-known intertextual discourse of poetics. 

Born in Shiraz, with its particular literary and cultural atmosphere, I have always been drawn to understanding major genres and themes of classical and modern Persian poetry, the literary language, structures, and imagery embedded in texts by Persian poets, and for more than half a century I have been in love with modernistic literary expression. 

I am aware that poetry and its supreme aesthetic expression, the ghazal, have particular importance in our culture. As Ehsan Yarshater remarks: “Poetry is the most artistic achievement of Persia, and as an art with wide scope, sustained energy, and universal appeal, [it] provides the broadest stage for artistic and intellectual expression.” (See Ehsan Yarshater, “Some Common Characteristics of Persian Poetry and Art” Studies Islamica, (1962:61).

The collected short poems in this volume have originally been written in English and later translated into Persian during the last four years. The reader may rightly ask why I have not written the poems in my native tongue Persian. One reason, honestly, is that consciously or unconsciously, I can’t help but stand in awe of powerful Persian poetry! Yes, I have always had a great sense of inferiority when I read the works of Hafez, Sadie, Khayyam, Shaamlu, Akhavan, etc. Secondly, I am a student of English language and literature, and in a sense through writing poetry in this language, I can learn a lot. At the same time, I believe, writing in English is a form of resistance and writing back to the imperial power. The ways in which I, as an Iranian, use the English language is complex. However, as my supervisor Bill Ashcroft rightly remarks: “One of the main features of imperial oppression is control over language.” (The Empire Writes Back: 7). Language becomes the medium through which a hierarchical structure is perpetuated, and the medium through which conceptions of ‘truth’, ‘order’, and ‘reality’ become established. Such power is rejected in the emergence of an effective post-colonial voice. 

I hope that, in writing these poems, I have been true to myself. I also hope each poem finds its mode, idiom, and appropriate language. I find it necessary to indicate that I do not believe in an ornate and elaborate language. I let the words find their own place, position, and link, and I let the poem find its particular melody.

What the Reviewers Think

An exquisite collection of poetic gems that explores the potential of poetry to resonate far beyond the words on the page.

Bill Ashcroft, FAHA, Professor Emeritus, School of the Arts and Media,
University of New South Wales, Sydney, Australia

Dr. Tavallaei is a Persian poet of the first order, comparable to Hafez, Rumi and Saadi. His poems reach deeply into the fundamental spiritual and existential questions mankind is facing now; he finds resolution and hope in humanity’s natural affinity for love, truth, and justice. In this new book, Dr. Tavallaie has expanded the scope from his previous work to vigorously bear down those innately human failings and fears we hold tightly to, opening the way through his poems toward light and the courage to combat darkness. He is probably one of the premier poets of our day and his work deserves international acclaim and attention.

Dr. Kyril Calsoyas, Native American Educator, Flagstaff, Arizona, USA

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About the Author

Born in 1947, Mohammad Tavallaei is a university professor, poet, critic, and translator originally from Shiraz, Iran. After receiving his bachelor’s and master’s degrees in English Language and Literature from Shiraz University (then Pahlavi University), in 1998 he received his doctorate in English literature from the University of New South Wales in Sydney, Australia.

Tavallaei is interested in literature in general and Persian, English, and French literature in particular, and he focuses in his work on Orientalist theory and discourse and other Resistance discourses. In his doctoral dissertation he explored The Orientalist Construction of Persia. After returning to Iran, he taught literature at Urmia University and Azad University.

In addition to teaching and evaluating doctoral dissertations at international universities, he has presented numerous articles in Persian and English at national and international conferences, and has authored, translated, and published Persian and English articles and poems.

His poems have been published in numerous Australian, English, and American poetry magazines and journals such as Jouvert, a Journal of Postcolonial StudiesNew Literature ReviewPost-Colonial Elaborations, and poetrymontly.

His poetry has been discussed and analyzed in Hazel Smith’s The Writing Experiment: Strategies for Innovative Writing (Allen & Unwin). He has also read his poetry at numerous Australian and European Universities. His books include Perennial Persian Pictures/Negarehaye Azali Iran (Bilingual, Sabzan Press), The Poet of Moments/Shaer Lahzeha (A translation of Manoor Ooji’s poetry, Sabzan Press) and A Voice from Ashes (A translation of Zhaleh’s poetry, Cune Press, Forthcoming 2023).

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