Monday, April 20, 2009

Majid Naficy: Little Armenia

in memory of Vazgin Mansourian (*)

The king hung you like a crucifix
From the neck of my city, Isfahan:
With your cathedral and cobblestones
With your taverns and goldsmiths
And your blushing daughters.

The city remained apart from you
Lying beyond Zaiandeh River.
Only poets of midnight
Knocked at the door of your taverns
And hikers of early morning
Disturbed your trickling spring.
For hundreds of years
We grew apart
Until the canals of Zaiandeh River
Brought our hearts together
And the blood of Vazgin
Flowed into my heart.

Oh, little Armenia!
The tyrants wanted you as a crucifix
But you rose again
Like the crucified Christ.

January 29, 1986

*My Armenian friend, Vazgin Mansourian was executed in July 1983 in Evin prison, Tehran. He is survived by his son, Narbeh. In this poem, "Little Armenia" refers to "Jolfa", the Armenian neighborhood in Isfahan. Shah Abbas I (1571-1629) forced Armenians to migrate from their homeland to his capital, Isfahan, Iran.

I read this poem as one of four poets who participated in a night of music and poetry in conjuction with the exhibition "Man's Inhumanity to Man" on Wed. April 15, 2009, at the Brand liberary, Glendale.
-- Majid Naficy

Majid Naficy was born in Iran in 1952. His first collection of poems in Persian, In the Tiger’s Skin, was published in 1969. One year later his book of literary criticism, Poetry as a Structure, appeared. In 1971 he wrote a children’s book, The Secret of Words, which won a national award in Iran.

In the seventies, Majid was politically active against the Shah’s regime. After the 1979 Revolution, the new theocratic regime began to suppress the opposition, and more than ten relatives, including his first wife Ezzat Tabaian and brother Sa’id were executed. He fled Iran in 1983 and spent a year and a half in Turkey and France. Majid then settled in Los Angeles where he lives with his son, Azad. He has since published eight collections of poems, After the Silence, Sorrow of the Border, Poems of Venice, Muddy Shoes (Beyond Baroque Books, 1999), Twelve Poems in Love: A Narrative, I Write to Bring You Back, Father & Son (Red Hen Press, 2003) and Galloping Gazelles as well as four books of essays In Search of Joy: A Critique of Death-Oriented, Male-Dominated Culture in Iran, Poetry & Politics and Twenty-Four Other Essays, The Best of Nima and I Am Iran Alone and Thirty-Five other Essays. He holds his doctorate in Near Eastern Languages and Cultures from the University of California at Los Angeles. His doctoral dissertation, Modernism and Ideology in Persian Literature: A Return to Nature in the Poetry of Nima Yushij was published by University Press of America, Inc. in 1997. Majid Naficy is a co-editor of Daftarhaya Kanoon a Persian periodical published by Iranian Writers' Association in Exile.

Vazgen Mansourian, Tehran, 1973

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