Ahmad Shamlu

The Poetry That Is Life

The theme of the traditional poet
Was not of life.

In the barren expanse of his imagination
He conversed with his mistress and wine
Living in an imaginary world
He was a captive
Held by a beloved's funny tresses.

As for others,
They held, in one hand a cup
In the other
A mistress's tresses
While they distressed
The entire world
With the intoxicating cries
They let loose.


Since the poet's subject
amounted to nothing
The influence of his verse
amounted to even less.

You could not use his poetry as a drill bit.

In the course of a struggle
Using the craft of poetry
You could not eliminate
The obstacles that confronted the masses

Put differently,
The poet's existence was immaterial
His being and not being the same
You could not use his poetry as gallows.

Whereas
I have personally,
With my poems
Fought alongside "Chen Chui" the Korean

Even, at a point
Several years ago,
I strung up "Hamidi the poet"
On the gallows of my verse.



The situation with poetry
Today
Is different altogether…

Today,
Poetry is
People's weapon
Poets are branches
from the forest of the masses
They are not
Jasmines and hyacinths
Of so and so's hothouse.


The poet
Is not alien
To people's common plight


He smiles with peoples' lips
His bones
He grafts to the hopes and sufferings
Of the people.


Today's poet
Must dress well
He must wear properly polished shoes
In the most crowded parts of town
With a poet's inborn gift,
He must

One by one, from among the passersby,
Pick and choose his topic, rhyme and
rhythm.


"Follow me, pilgrim!
For three days now,
I have been everywhere, seeking you out."


"Seeking me out?
I don't understand!
Sir, you must be mistaken.
Are you taking me for someone else?"


"No, my dear fellow,
That would be impossible
I'd recognize the fresh rhythm of my poetry
in any place."


"What did you say?
Poetic rhythm?"


"Have patience, friend…
I have always
Scoured the alley,
Looking for rhythm, words, and rhyme.


In my verses, people form the units
"Life" (i.e., the theme of the stanza),
"Words," "rhythm," and "poetic rhyme;"
I seek all of those among the people
I prefer this method
It enhances poetry, gives it life and soul…"



Now comes the time
When the poet
Employing poetic logic,
Must convince the passerby
To willingly become engaged.
All his efforts, otherwise, will be futile.


Well,
Now that rhythm is in place
It is time to seek out the words


Each word (as the name indicates)
Is a witty and pretty girl…


The poet must couple
His desired rhythm with suitable words
Although a tedious task, and trying,
It must be done.

There is no way out:
Mr. Rhythm and his wife, Word:
If not compatible
If not on the same wavelength,
The outcome will be most unpleasant
Like the outcome
For myself and my wife:
I was rhythm, she was word:
The theme of our poem,
The permanent coming together
Of the lips of love…


Even though the smiles of our children
(those pleasant beats)
appeared with joy in our poem
Some cold, black words
Gave it an ominous and dark turn,
It destroyed the rhythm
And the pleasant beat.

At the end,
The poem became useless and banal
And the master became tired
Of a lack of purpose!



In any event,
More is said than intended
A painful bloody blister is opened up…



Life,
We explained
Is the model
For the modern poet



Following life's experiences
The poet
Employing the magic of poetry
Creates an image
That overlay an already existing plan


He writes poetry
That is,
He touches the wounds of the old town
Put differently,
He tells the night
Of an imminent pleasant morn.

He writes poetry
That is,
He cries out the pains of his land
That is,
With his song,
He revives the flagging spirits.


He writes poetry
That is,
He fills the cold and empty hearts with joy


That is to say,
Facing the dawn
He awakens the sleep-laden eyes.


He writes poetry
That is,
He explains the honor roll of his fellow man
He recites the victory notes of his Time…



If poetry is life
This barren talk, too,
About semantics
is absurd…



From beneath
Its darkest verses
We feel the sunny warmth
of hope and love


Kayvan has composed
The song of his life
In blood.
Vartan has composed
The clamor of his
In silence.


But, even if
The rhyme-life holds nothing
But a prolonged accent of death.
In each poem
The meaning of each death
Is life.



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Ahmad Shamlu