Book Review: Song of a Captive Bird

Song of a Captive Bird

A spellbinding debut novel about the trailblazing poet Forugh Farrokhzhad, who defied Iranian society to find her voice and her destiny

“Remember the flight, for the bird is mortal.”—Forugh Farrokhzad

All through her childhood in Tehran, Forugh is told that Iranian daughters should be quiet and modest. She is taught only to obey, but she always finds ways to rebel—gossiping with her sister among the fragrant roses of her mother’s walled garden, venturing to the forbidden rooftop to roughhouse with her three brothers, writing poems to impress her strict, disapproving father, and sneaking out to flirt with a teenage paramour over café glacé. It’s during the summer of 1950 that Forugh’s passion for poetry really takes flight—and that tradition seeks to clip her wings.

Forced into a suffocating marriage, Forugh runs away and falls into an affair that fuels her desire to write and to achieve freedom and independence. Forugh’s poems are considered both scandalous and brilliant; she is heralded by some as a national treasure, vilified by others as a demon influenced by the West. She perseveres, finding love with a notorious filmmaker and living by her own rules—at enormous cost. But the power of her writing grows only stronger amid the upheaval of the Iranian revolution.

Inspired by Forugh Farrokhzad’s verse, letters, films, and interviews—and including original translations of her poems—Jasmin Darznik has written a haunting novel, using the lens of fiction to capture the tenacity, spirit, and conflicting desires of a brave woman who represents the birth of feminism in Iran—and who continues to inspire generations of women around the world.

Review:

This is a fascinating and well researched book about the Iranian poet Forugh Forrokzad. She wrote primarily in the 1950’s and 1960’s, and was a pivotal part of the feminist movement in Iran at that time.

I loved learning about this amazing historical figure who I had not even heard of before and getting a sense of what life was like for a woman in Iran at the time. Forrokzad was a formidable woman who refused to conform to the norms of society, and who followed her own path, doing what she thought was right for herself.

As you can imagine, Forrokzad had huge hurtles to overcome and backlash to contend with. However, these things did not deter her from forging ahead with her poetry and politics, even at great personal cost.

Darzink has done an impressive job researching Forrokzad, going so far as to translate her poetry herself into English. The story is fictionalized, but is still compelling. I did feel that the storytelling could have been more personal and a little less “telling” what went on. Still, I was caught up in the story and in Forrokzad, anxious to turn the pages to see how her life would unfold. Darzink has done an impressive job of bringing an interesting and turbulent time in history to life and of introducing a formidable poet to many of us who may never heard of her before.

 

Note: I received an advanced copy of this book via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

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A Farewell to Agamemnon from Clytemnestra

Several year ago, I wrote a Greek myth, historical fiction Nanowrimo novel about Clytemnestra, the twin sister to Helen of Troy called Betrayed. Recently I’ve come back to it and have been revising it — and I have to say that I’m having a lot of fun. There are parts of this novel that I think are fantastic. Of course, there are other parts that still need work, but I’m getting there.

I’ve also been going over some poetry I wrote awhile ago and, funnily enough, came across this one about Clytemnestra. It’s not too bad, so thought I’d share it here.

Murder of Agamemnon, painting by Pierre-Narcisse Guérin.

A Farewell to Agamemnon from Clytemnestra

“Farewell,”

I say to Agamemnon, my husband,

Who today returned home,

Victorious,

From the Trojan War.

Tonight the victory is mine.

His eyes grow wide, he sits up,

Sloshing water from the tub.

I throw the net over his naked body,

And watch him struggle,

A fly in a web.

The knife at his throat

Stops his fight.

“Why?” he gasps,

Like he really doesn’t know.

I laugh.

“To gain a kingdom,

You ravaged me on the night you made me

A childless widow.

You shredded my life with your knife.

But that wasn’t enough for you.

Hate festered when

You traded a ten year battle

Leading the thousand ships,

To return Helen, my beautiful, fickle sister,

To the husband who couldn’t keep her

In the first place,

For the life of our daughter.

Iphigenia was an innocent sacrifice.

Though you have blood on your hands,

I sacrifice you to Nemesis,

The goddess of revenge.”

I look up and meet the eyes of my lover,

The usurper, Aegisthus,

And pull the knife across my husband’s throat.

“Farewell.”

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Zeus

I’ve been working hard on getting healthier, and one of the things I’ve been doing is reading Writing the Natural Way by Gabriele Rico, as well as doing the exercises. I highly recommend this book, by the way — lots of deceptively simple exercises and information about how the brain works. I thought it would be fun to start sharing some of these poems here on my blog.

Today I wrote a poem following the structure of another poem, in this case, Portrait VIII by e.e. cummings. His poem was about Buffalo Bill. I’ve chosen Zeus from ancient Greek myth.

Zeus

 

Zeus is

     king

     who can take any form

     to seduce whoever strikes his

          fancy

     and wield onetwothreefourfive thunderbolts

          justlikethat

     By the gods!

he was powerful

          once

          sitting on his throne in Olympus

               governing all

but where is he

Now?

 

 

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Author Interview: Andrea Lightfoot

Today I am happy to introduce writer Andrea Lightfoot, author of Fanastica – Surreal Prose and Poetry.
fatasticaTell us about your book. Is there one in particular you are promoting right now? What is it about?
The book is called ‘Fantastica – Surreal Prose & Poetry ‘ and is a guide to the “nearest place to Fairyland”, featuring short stories, poems, interviews and information by residents of Fantastica and it’s visitors.
What genre do you write in? Who is your audience?
The fantasy genre, which I love, as it really allows me to unleash my imagination. ‘Fantastica – Surreal Prose & Poetry ‘ is universal, meaning anyone any age can read it.

How do you come up with the ideas for your writing?
My ideas come from all sorts of places. I see the world like a child does, and I think imaginatively instead of logically (unless I need to think logically). I can see/imagine passageways, for instance, and music gives me ideas too. A cardboard box for me is never just a cardboard box. There’s always something else that it can become.

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