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Björk Guest-Edit: The Iranian Feminist Revolutionary Who Inspired Björk

A rare female voice in Tehran’s 60s literary scene, poet Forough Farrokhzad was a pioneer

For the latest issue of AnOther Magazine, we asked Björk to compile an anthology of texts that have inspired her. Drawing on the research undertaken for her show at The Shed, Björk’s Cornucopia, which premiered this month, the Icelandic artist gathers together the work of some of the most important post-feminist thinkers of the age and puts her own determinedly maverick and truthful stamp on the anthology. Björk has compiled an agenda for hope and reconnection, accompanied here by a dedicated series of imagery created by artist Wanda Orme

Fearless Iranian poet and filmmaker Forough Farrokhzad lived her life in revolt, slicing through the conventions of the patriarchal society into which she was born in 1935. She published her first collection of modernist poems aged just 20, candidly writing about love, desire and despair, and attracting scandal as a rare female voice on Tehran’s literary scene. She died in a car crash aged 32, leaving behind a trove of poems including this one, first published in 1962.

The crow that soared
above our heads and plunged
into a vagrant cloud’s restless thoughts,
its voice a short spear travelling horizon’s length,
will carry the news of us to town.

Everyone knows.
Everyone knows you and I
have seen the garden through that cold,
grim window and have plucked the apple
from that far, flirtatious branch.

Everyone fears.
Everyone fears, but you and I
merged into one
before the water, the mirror, and the lamp,
and were not afraid.

I do not speak of the frail union of two names,
their embrace on an old ledger’s page –
I speak of my hair,
happy with your singed poppy kisses,
our bodies’ defiant intimacy,
and our nudity’s sheen like fish scales in water.
I speak of the silver life of a song
a small fountain sings each dawn.

We asked the wild rabbits
in the flowing green woods,
and we asked the pearl-pregnant oysters
in the foaming cold-blooded sea,
and we asked the young eagles
in that lofty mountain of victory,
What should be done?

Everyone knows.
Everyone knows we have found our way
to the cold and silent dreams of the phoenix;
have found the truth in the garden,
in the shamefaced gaze of an unnamed flower;
found eternity inside a boundless moment
where two suns eye each other.

I do not speak of anxious murmurs in the dark –
I speak of daylight, of open windows, fresh air,
and a stove in which burn useless things;
of an earth pregnant with new seedlings,
of birth, maturation, and pride.
I speak of our loving hands that built a bridge
of perfume, light, and breeze between nights.

Come to the fields…
to the vast, vast fields;
call me from behind the breath of cotton flowers –
like a stag calling his mate.

Curtains billow with choked sorrow,
and from the heights of their white tower
innocent doves gaze at the earth below.

From Sin: Selected Poems of Forough Farrokhzad, translated by Sholeh Wolpé, published by The University of Arkansas Press in 2007. Inaugurating the Garden was first published in Kayhan-E Hafteh in 1962.

This story originally featured in the Spring/Summer 2019 issue of AnOther Magazine which is on sale internationally now.