Central California Poetry Journal

Volume 2000 Number 1

The Poetry of Central California Page 00lr

Letters to The Editor

For 1999, 1998 and 1997 letters, please see page 91lr , page 81lr and page 71lr

Dear Editor,

Enclosed, please find my letter on the death of Iran's most prominent contemporary poet and, arguably, one of the world's leading poets which I would like to submit for publication in your journal.

G. Sami Gorgan Roodi
GRC Humanities
University of Sussex


On July 26, 2000 Anthony Appiah, the Chairperson of PEN Freedom-to-Write Committee and Diana Ayton-Shenker, the Director of PEN Freedom-to-Write Program released the following letter expressing their condolences over the death of Iran's greatest contemporary poet, Ahmad Shamlou.

Dear Colleagues,

On behalf of the 2,700 writers who are members of PEN American Center, we wish to express our deepest condolence at the death of our esteemed colleague, Ahmad Shamlou, who passed away on the evening of July 23 in his native Iran. For more than half a century, Shamlou's unique poetry celebrated humanity, freedom and beauty, enchanting all who encountered his work. Enthralled with culture and language, and the mythic roots of both, his work was the fruit of far-reaching travels in the world of words. "Standing on the equator," with the world and humanity on the horizon, he was always restless and curious. From a young age, Shamlou struggled internally to construct a fortress against decadence, injustice, fear and ugliness. Through his poetry, he cried out in anguish at the dashed hopes of his times, yet "never abandoned his faith in humanity." Shamlou was privileged to experience extraordinary literary acclaim; he died knowing the magic of his words would surpass his lifetime. Shamlou's death marks a great loss for the Iranian literary community and the international world of letters. May Ahmad Shamlou's poetic legacy grant comfort to those who mourn him today, and inspiration to those who will read his work for generations to come.

Anthony Appiah Chair, PEN Freedom-to-Write Committee
Diana Ayton-Shenker Director, PEN Freedom-to-Write Program

Ahmad Shamlou, arguably, Iran's most-celebrated and prominent contemporary poet and one of twentieth-century's leading literary figures was admitted to hospital in mid-June for what was called a case of extreme exhaustion. A couple of days earlier, he received Sweden highest prize for writers who emphasise human rights and freedom of expression in their writings. Shamlou, who adopted the penname, Baamdaad ("Morning") was, to many Iranians, a symbol of secular nationalism. He was a major force in the intellectual movement opposed to the former Shah of Iran before the 1979 revolution. The Shah sent him to exile in 1970. On his return home, however, he seemed totally disheartened and dissilusioned by politics. His hopes for equality and social justice were once again awakened in the wake of popular opposition to the Shah in late 1970s which made him join other Iranian intellectuals to lead a secular intellectual movement against the monarch's dictatorship. After the abolition of monarchy in the country, Shamlou's expectations and hopes were not fully realized. After the religious hard-liners' crackdown on secularist groups, he grew more outspoken about restrictions on individual freedom. "They smell your mouth/ To see if you have been saying: "I love you!"/... These are the strangest of times, my dear.../ We must hide our joys in a closet," reads one of his poems. Shamlou lived in isolation in a Tehran suburb during the past few years, but, on occasions, travelled to the West for medical treatment. Although slandered by hard-liners as a "traitor" and a "Westernised writer," he has recently been rehabilitated under Iran's moderate and free-thinking President, Mohammad Khatami. Much to the hard-liners' disappointment and annoyance, Khatami's liberal Culture Minister, Ataollah Mohajerani, openly expressed his grief over Shamlou's death.

As for his poetry, Shamlou developed a simple, free poetic style, known in Iran as "Sepid" poetry (literally meaning "white"), which is a kind of free verse that departs from the tightly balanced rhythem and rhymes of classical Persian poetry. He democratised the language of poetry by employing the style and words of the man in the street. Having been influenced by Nimaa Youshij, Iran's father of modern poetry; the Spanish poet, Federico Garcia Lorca; the black American poet, Langston Hughes; and the French thinker and writer, Louis Aragon, Shamlou wrote increasingly of love, sacrifice, betrayal, desire, pain, the beauty of nature and the agonizing fragility of life and human misery. He was a socialist and a humanist who wrote passionate love poems with political overtones. He loved the common, bare-footed man who lived on nothing but hope and a desire for justice. Shamlou's books were banned for a long time before and after the revolution. However, since the early 1990s his poems have appeared in many literary journals. His poems have also been translated into many languages. Here is a translation of one of his memorable poems which recalls years of tyranny and hardship:


They smell your mouth
To see if you have been saying: "I love you."
They smell your heart
These are the strangest of times, my dear!

Whoever knocks at the door in the middle of
Has come to kill the light
We have to hide it in a closet.
Now the butchers are
Stationed on each cross-road
With a tree trunk and a cleaver
To engrave a smile on our lips
And a song on our mouths
We must hide our joys in a closet.

Canaries are being roasted on fire
Made of lilies and lilacs
These are the strangest of times, my dear!

The victorious drunkard Devil
Is celebrating our mourning
We have to hide God in a closet.

From: 103@doar.net

For Immediate Release

RHYMES OF ROMANCE, POEMS OF PASSION Has been a forty-year work in progress for poet Robert Kogan. After thirty years in mental health administration, Dr. Kogan, now retired, shares his poetry which focuses on themes of intense feelings of love, life, protest and social commentary. A signed, autographed copy of this new poetry book is now available for purchase. If you like poetry this is surely for you.

"Poetry at its Best" Act Now!

For samples of some of his poetry, a review of his book and ordering options, send an email to poetryforyou@1033edge.com

From: Eldonna Bouton
Festival Committee

Even if you're going to BEA, you can send your authors to the festival in San Luis Obispo, CA. on June 3; a pretty place in CA that was voted "Best Downtown in California" by Sunset Magazine.

We need authors that would like to rent a booth while their publishers are away to keep the momentum going, or small publishers who aren't going but want to write off a beautiful vacation. We also have some Independent bookstores participating who are looking for better-known names to sign at their tables.

We have snagged Catherine Ryan Hyde, author of "Pay it Forward" which has already sold movie rights and signed Kevin Spacey and Helen Hunt as stars.Ms. Hyde will be reading from her book and signing copies during the festival. Mystery writer Earlene Fowler has also joined us.

We need a cookbook author who would like to do a demonstration as well as other authors who have good mini-seminar potential. Booths are $100 for authors with no more than 2 books, $150 for publishers with 3 or more books and retail vendors. (Authors may share a table as long as they find their own partner and each author has no more than 2 books.) Includes table, canopy, banner, and blurb in New Times and festival brochure. For booth application, policy info and more details, including lodging cooperative with local Inn, visit the website. We will be having an author reception of the Friday night prior to the festival (details forthcoming.) Best booth sites doled out on a first come first serve basis so get your application in ASAP.


Hope to see you there!

Eldonna Bouton
Festival Committee
or call Charlotte Alexander at (805)546-3108 FAX (805)546-3921


From: 8632498123@63489.com

Dear literary enthusiast, The new issue of Gray Matter Tapestry is online at http://www.gmpublishing.com/tapestry/ Drop by for some great poetry and short fiction. You will not be sent any other correspondences from this e-mail address. Thanks, and enjoy!

From: bette [wacobill@uswest.net]

Dear Friend,

Once in awhile you run across a poem that is simply UNFORGETTABLE. Here's one that you'll enjoy- After The Wet by Australian poet,Jack Sammon--- Cowboy, Coalminer, Poet. He's featured on The Range Writers this month at: http://members.xoom.com/wacobill/afterthewet.htm

Bette Wolf Duncan


The following web page features a poem about the San Francisco 49rs’ and The Greenbay Packers’ playoff game a few years back…The Man Who Dropped Four, complete with pictures of Steve Young and T. Owens in action.. You might find it interesting on this day of all days. HAPPY SUPER BOWL. http://www.users.uswest.net/~wacobill/manwhodroppedfour.html

Your cyberspace friend,
Bette Wolf Duncan

All text and images in The Central California Poetry Journal are copyrighted. Copyright by © by Scott Galloway 1999. All rights are reserved.See main Journal page for copyright information.
Authors and poets submitting original materials to this journal retain all rights to their original work, except those rights specifically assigned in writing to Solo Publications including the right to publish the submitted work in The Central California Poetry Journal.

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