Due to political developments in her native Iran, Anis Moin lives in Sweden. She has, however, never forgotten her roots. They remain a strong part of who she is. Like any expat from any country, those deep cultural influences helped to form who she is, what she writes and sings about and how she views herself. Naturally, when in Iran and once she had moved to Sweden she was influenced by a wide range of musical and poetic forms, but this article will look at the influence of one poet above all others, Farough Farrokhzad.
In 2007, four songs by Anis were listed on the Iranian.com website. These were Mordaab, Shoq, Zolmat and Vedaa. Each song, according to the site, were choosed by Anis for her Four Voices album, but were based on the poetry of Farough Farrokhzad.
Farrokhzad was born in Tehran in 1935, the daughter of a military officer and a housewife. She was educated in dressmaking and painting before being married to Parviz Shapour aged 16. A few years later they divorced and Shapour won custody of their son, Kamyar. Having continued her education after being married, Farrokhzad now lived as a divorcee in Tehran, she began to publish her poetry beginning with a collection called The Captive in 1955.
The 44 poems caused a wave of negative remarks in Iranian society, which may have led to her nervous breakdown in the same year. After spending time in a psychiatric clinic, Farrokhzad wrote a second poetry collection entitled Divar while touring Europe. Her third collection, Esian meaning “Rebellion” opened her up to the wider world as never before.
Probably under the influence of her new beau, Ebrahim Golestan, she began to delve into cinematography. Her first effort was a documentary about a leper colony in Iran. The House is Black won her several prizes and led to documentaries being made about her work. Her relationships with male friends led to most of the controversies surrounding her in her 20s. She became close to poet Nadir Naderpur, novelist Sadeq Chubak and of course, Golestan.
Words whisper, but the controversies surrounding her life were not centred on these relationships or for that matter he decision to wear tighter, more western clothing. Instead it was to do with the open emotions she expressed in her poetry. Emotional discussions had been clamped down upon by the religious hierarchy of the country. Yet the Iran of her time was far more liberal than its modern equivalent. She found a voice and the people found a poet that struck a chime with their own feelings.
She published two further poetry collections entitled Tavallodi Digar and Let Us Believe in the Beginning of the Cold Season before dying in a traffic accident in 1967, aged just 32. It is believed she swerved to avoid oncoming traffic and ploughed straight into a wall. She was thrown from the jeep and suffered head injuries in the impact.
Few Iranian women have been successful outside of Iran, even fewer in the last few decades. Farrokhzad’s works were later banned by the leading clerics of the Islamic Revolution in Tehran. The same group of people and their successors would force Anis to leave her country. No doubt, if Farrokhzad had not been killed in 1967, she too would have been forced to flee to Europe or to America.
From reading her poetry it is clear to see why Anis has taken such inspiration from her. Also brought up in a world of Persian music and culture, Farrokhzad learnt her own poetic craft and resolutely stuck to her rights to produce poetry in a male-dominated culture. In one such poem, The Captive she implores fate to deliver her to love rather than the imprisonment of an arranged marriage:
“I am thinking that in a moment of neglect
I might fly from this silent prison,
laugh in the eyes of the man who is my jailer
and beside you begin life anew.”
Her poetry’s themes might not seem radical to the west, but must be put into context. They were not about prosaic subjects. Marriage and weddings are important subjects for people and let’s not forget the minutiae of such events, such as inviting the right guests, finding a venue, the right music, food and making sure they get the correct wedding insurance. What Farrokhzad did was take it beyond the ordinary and into the emotional. She spoke for people’s feelings as they were trapped within unhappy and often, forced or arranged marriages.
In short, her poems said it was ok to talk about matters of the heart. The theme continues in her poem entitled Call to Arms where she exhorts Iranian women to stand up for their rights:
“Only you, O Iranian woman, have remained
In bonds of wretchedness, misfortune, and cruelty;
If you want these bonds broken,
grasp the skirt of obstinacy”
From such words it is easy to see where Anis has been inspired. Events in Iran, its intolerance after the Islamic revolution of what she stands for, brings her into line as a modern, musical Farrokhzad. In this sense it is natural for her to put music and lyrics to the poet’s words to remind people of their power and to a life tragically cut short.
Beth Rubin is a freelance politics and culture writer in Birmingham, England. She has spent much of the last year travelling and interviewing poets and writers from around the world.