Song of a Captive Bird
By Jasmin Darznik
Read Jan 2019
Forugh Farrokhzad was a poet born in 1934 in Tehran, Iran. During her short life (she died in a car accident at age 32) Forugh published several volumes of poetry that were highly praised and widely read, and directed a documentary, The House is Black, about a leper colony. Her poetry was quite controversial as she wrote about desire, sin, loss, love, and more from her own perspective. For both her extraordinary poetry and for her very unconventional life (divorced from by her husband who retained custody of her only child and a relationship with cinematographer Ebrahim Golestan, who was the producer of her documentary), she attracted much attention and disapproval. She was hospitalized at one point for an alleged mental breakdown. Her poetry was banned after the Islamic Revolution but remains widely read, now in many languages.
Jasmin Darznik moved to the US in 1978 with her parents when she was five years old and her parents were among many who fled Iran during this turbulent period of Iranian history. In this book, Darznik has provided a fictionalized first-person account of Forugh’s life and brings to life a picture of this extraordinary woman as she fights to break free of the shackles imposed on women by her culture and of the times during which she lived. That Forugh successfully published her sometimes very erotic poems demonstrates her amazing voice and her determination to be heard, and also shows a time when Iran, while even then extremely conservative, also provided an avenue for independent and controversial female voices to be heard.
Forugh’s voice in this book tells us of the struggles with her parents, husband, mother-in-law, editor/lover, Golestan, society, and herself. She recognizes that the choices she makes are sometimes reckless and burn bridges back to a more standard life, but she is firmly committed to live life by her rules and not others, even if at times she is lonely.
While I sometimes struggle with fictionalized accounts of the lives of real people, I fully recommend this one. The first-person voice Darznik presents of Forugh is not inconsistent with Forugh’s poetry that is quoted throughout the book. This is an accessible portal to learn about this remarkable woman whose voice rings strong, loud, and clear 51 years after her death and even when translated into English from the original Farsi.