Poetry as Salve for Persian Exiles

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review


With the coming of the 1979 Revolution and the Iran–Iraq War
(1980–88), Persian poetry entered into a new phase. While the
revolutionary poets wrote about the ideals of the revolution,
motivating young soldiers to go to the front, many established
poets were persecuted, imprisoned, or executed, and some chose
exile. From this period onward, a rich corpus of Persian poetry about
exile has been created. With minds in their new homes and hearts
in the homeland, the poets reflect on a wide range of new experiences.
What strikes me in reading the poetry of exiled Iranians is that their
poetry, as well as their other writings, usually starts with traumatic
experiences in prisons before and after the revolution, followed by
reflective narratives about their flight from Iran, and a period of
adaptation and even acceptance of the new culture, elaborating
on life in exile with all its hardships and problems. In these three phases, poetry often functions as a salve, offering poets a space for
reflection and contemplation. The authors have recourse to classical
Persian poetry, which conveys the ephemerality of life, to universalize
the theme of exile by relating it to a mystical longing of the soul for
its original abode and to the uncertainties of mundane life. While
classical poetry is restorative for pains and tribulations, the exiled
authors also compose their own poetry depicting a bitter and souring
process of acquiescence to an uncertain life in the diaspora.
In this essay, I will first give an example of how classical Persian poetry
is used by the diaspora in an exilic context, and then, I will analyze the
poetry of three Persian poets: Nasim Khaksar, Pegah Ahmadi, and
Fatemeh Shams. There are a large number of Persian poets in the
diaspora whose poetry deserves to be analyzed. Each of these poets,
whether they are established, amateur, or novice, reveals a new aspect
of life in exile.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)14-44
Number of pages40
JournalIran-Namag: A Quarterly of Iranian Studies
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 2021


Dive into the research topics of 'Poetry as Salve for Persian Exiles'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this