Arc Publications logo

50 years at the cutting edge of poetry publishing

“A meeting point for poets of all latitudes”
— Víctor Rodríguez Núñez


Posted by Sarah, 17th August 2012

Mandana Zandian
Mandana Zandian

Not the new Pixar Disney film with its 'flame-haired' heroine *sigh (although I suppose it is something that we have a proactive female lead in animation now too ...)

But demonstrating a far more complex, conflicted and therefore sense of the word brave is the new Persian anthology edited by Ali Alizadeh and John Kinsella.

Six Vowels and Twenty-three Consonants has attempted to present a spread of Persian poetry from 9th century to present day. And so plenty to struggle with:
Persian is essentially a sociable, oral poetry
How can two people translating a multitude of voices avoid the 'generics of language' (as JK puts it)
Conveying nationlistic pride (so evident in the classical poetry) without presenting 'bandwagon' poetry
Defining Persia... particularly, contemporary Persia...
And that's just the anthologising process.

What of the poets contained? Does brave cover their process of writing? Or what they have lived through? Or the path they have furrowed to incorporate the two? Some were uprooted from homes, executed for their writing, subverted classic forms, criticised leaders...

Alizadeh and Kinsella worked for three years on this project, admit the issues they faced and explain their process, in fascinating introductions and have collected an extraordinary group of poems that illuminate and challenge the more traditional understanding of Persian lyricism. The brutality that has infiltrated the region is evident, as is love, incarceration, passion, exile, humour, hope and regret.

What is also very pleasing to read is the amount of women poets in the modern section of the anthology: sometimes witty always strong-minded women who could show the Pixlar heroine what more invisible heroines can achieve, if she read.

"...And the naked
song of my lips will document
in the red music of your flesh" Mandana Zandian

I wonder how that sentiment is portrayed in the film.