Thursday, August 28, 2014

Winifred Dawson obituary

winifred dawson
 'How beautiful you were, and near, and young,' Larkin wrote of Winifred Dawson

Winifred Dawson obituary

Ann Thwaite
Thu 28 Aug 2014 15.34 BST

First published on Thu 28 Aug 2014 15.34 BST

Winifred Dawson, who has died unexpectedly aged 85, after a stroke, was much loved and will always be remembered for one early relationship. As a young woman in Belfast in the 1950s, Winifred inspired five of Philip Larkin's poems – more than did any of the other women in his life. The "sweet girl-graduate" (in Lines on a Young Lady's Photograph Album) was also the subject of Latest Face and of Maiden Name (with "its five light sounds"), of He Hears That His Beloved Has Become Engaged and, written on the day of her wedding, Long Roots Moor Summer to Our Side of Earth.

Ed Meek / At the End

by Ed Meek

He was so old his bones seemed to swim in his skin.
And when I took his hand to feel his pulse
I felt myself drawn in. It was as faint
as the steps of a child
padding across the floor in slippers,
and yet he was smiling.
I could almost hear a river
running beneath his breath.
The water clear and cold and deep.
He was ready and willing to wade on in. 

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Simin Behbahani, Outspoken Iranian Poet, Dies at 87

Photo by Morteza Nikoubazl

Simin Behbahani, Outspoken Iranian Poet, Dies at 87

By Douglas Martin
August 21, 2014

Simin Behbahani, a prizewinning poet known as “the lioness of Iran” for using her verse as a means of courageous social protest, died on Tuesday in Tehran. She was 87.

Her death was announced by the Iranian Republic News agency, the country’s official information service.

Ms. Behbahani wrote more than 600 poems, collected in 20 books, on subjects as diverse as earthquakes, revolution, war, poverty, prostitution, freedom of speech and her own plastic surgery. In poems and public speeches, she confronted Iran’s religious authorities, challenging them on practices like the stoning of women who commit adultery.

“She became the voice of the Iranian people,” Farzaneh Milani, a University of Virginia professor who translated many of her poems into English, said in an interview on Thursday. “She was the elegant voice of dissent, of conscience, of nonviolence, of refusal to be ideological.”

In 2006, the Iranian authorities shut down an opposition newspaper for printing one of her works. In 2010, when she was 82 and nearly blind, she was barred from boarding a Paris-bound plane and interrogated through the night regarding poems she had written about Iran’s 2009 elections, which were considered fraudulent by government opponents.

“Stop this extravagance, this reckless throwing of my country to the wind,” she wrote in “Stop Throwing My Country to the Wind.” The poem ended:

You may wish to have me burned, or decide to stone me

But in your hand match or stone will lose their power to harm me.

In a 2011 video message to the Iranian people in celebration of the Persian New Year, President Obama said Ms. Behbahani’s “words have moved the world” and quoted a poem she wrote in 1982, “My Country, I Will Build You Again”: “Old I may be, but given the chance, I will learn.”

Fittingly, it was poetry that brought her parents together.

Her mother, Fakhr-e Ozma Arghun, had sent a poem she wrote to a magazine edited by Abbas Khalili, a translator and poet himself. He liked the poem and was surprised to find it had been written by a woman. He said he wanted to marry the poet, whom he had not yet met.

He did marry her, but three days after their wedding he was arrested and exiled for articles that offended the ruling Pahlavi dynasty. He did not see his daughter — born Siminbar Khalili on July 20, 1927, in Tehran — until she was 14 months old, and did not see her again until she was 11. 

In the meantime, the girl’s parents divorced. Simin’s mother raised her to love literature and, when Simin was 14, sent a poem Simin had written to a literary journal, which published it. In 1951, Ms. Behbahani published her first book of poems.

One of her first innovations was with the ghazal, a sonnetlike Persian poetic form. It had traditionally been written from the perspective of a male lover admiring a woman, but Ms. Behbahani made the woman the protagonist. She later used the ghazal form to write about all manner of subjects, including the Iran-Iraq war. She also used her skill in writing about love to compose lyrics for popular songs.

Ms. Behbahani studied to be a midwife before pursuing a law degree, which she earned but never used. She taught high school — physics and chemistry, then literature — for more than 20 years.

Among the many literary awards she won was, in 2013, the Janus Pannonius Poetry Prize from the Hungarian PEN Club, which carries a 50,000-euro prize and is sometimes called the Nobel Prize for poetry. She was twice nominated for the Nobel Prize in Literature.

Ms. Behbahani’s first marriage, to Hassan Behbahani, ended in divorce. Her second marriage, to Manuchehr Koushyar, ended with his death in 1984. She is survived by her sons, Ali and Hossein Behbahani; her daughter, Omid Behbahani; and several grandchildren.

Jahan News, a hard-line Iranian website, once characterized Ms. Behbahani’s writing as treasonous, saying, “Her poetry, with its slanderous and scandalous way of addressing Iranians, only serves to make Iran’s enemies happy.”

But Ms. Behbahani viewed herself as patriotic, insisting her impassioned writings and public statements were intended only to make Iran better. The poem President Obama quoted began:

My Country, I will build you again,

If need be, with bricks made from my life

I will build columns to support your roof

If need be, with my bones.
A version of this article appears in print on Aug. 23, 2014, Section B, Page 8 of the New York edition with the headline: Simin Behbahani, 87, Outspoken Iranian Poet.

Saturday, August 16, 2014

Sara Teasdale / It Will Not Change

It Will Not Change
Sara Teasdale 

It will not change now
After so many years;
Life has not broken it
With parting or tears;
Death will not alter it,
It will live on
In all my songs for you
When I am gone.

Sunday, August 10, 2014

Sara Teasdale / If I Must Go

If I Must Go

Sara Teasdale 

If I must go to heaven's end
Climbing the ages like a stair,
Be near me and forever bend
With the same eyes above me there;
Time will fly past us like leaves flying,
We shall not heed, for we shall be
Beyond living, beyond dying,
Knowing and known unchangeably.

Saturday, August 9, 2014

Sara Teasdale/ I Have Loved Hours At Sea

I Have Loved Hours At Sea

by Sara Teasdale  

I have loved hours at sea, gray cities,
The fragile secret of a flower,
Music, the making of a poem
That gave me heaven for an hour;

First stars above a snowy hill,
Voices of people kindly and wise,
And the great look of love, long hidden,
Found at last in meeting eyes.

I have loved much and been loved deeply--
Oh when my spirit's fire burns low,
Leave me the darkness and the stillness,
I shall be tired and glad to go.

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Sara Teasdale / I Love You

Illustration by Triunfo Arciniegas
I Love You

by Sara Teasdale  

When April bends above me
And finds me fast asleep,
Dust need not keep the secret
A live heart died to keep.

When April tells the thrushes,
The meadow-larks will know,
And pipe the three words lightly
To all the winds that blow.

Above his roof the swallows,
In notes like far-blown rain,
Will tell the little sparrow
Beside his window-pane.

O sparrow, little sparrow,
When I am fast asleep,
Then tell my love the secret
That I have died to keep.

Saturday, August 2, 2014

Denise Levertov / Love Poem

Love Poem
by Denise Levertov
Maybe I’m a ‘sick part of a
sick thing’
      maybe something
       has caught up with me
certainly there is a 
mist between us
    I can barely
see you
       but your hands
are two animals that push the 
mist aside and touch me.