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Let Us Believe in the Beginning of the Cold Season: Selected Poems of Forough Farrokhzad

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Let Us Believe in the Beginning of the Cold Season: Selected Poems of Forough Farrokhzad book cover

In the years since her tragic death in a car accident at age thirty-two in 1967, Forough Farrokhzad—poet, painter, screenwriter, filmmaker—has become a literary figure as influential as Lorca or Akhmatova, celebrated as a feminist trailblazer of Iranian literature and as an iconoclastic figure of contemporary world literature. As Mehdi Jami writes in The Guardian, “In every culture you have cultural icons, like Shakespeare in Britain. Farrokhzad was like that for contemporary Iran, someone who formed the identity of our contemporariness.”

Thoughtfully curated and deftly translated this Selected Poems gathers stunning work from Farrokhzad’s whole writing life, early to late, including the entirety of her posthumous collection, Let Us Believe in the Beginning of the Cold Season. Readers can thoroughly treasure this expansive poet of desire and loss, of classical reinvention, of lexical variation and sonic beauty, of personal and political despair, and of terrifying wisdom and hope.

Selected Poems

After You

Window

I Will Greet the Sun Again

Reviews

“Elizabeth T. Gray, Jr.’s new translations bring Farrokhzad’s vision into focus for Anglophone readers. Choosing a representative sample of forty poems, Gray has made stark, astringent, and visually striking versions that sit comfortably in their new language, as few earlier attempts have. Farrokhzad has a mystical sensibility, which is a challenge for the translator, who must strike a balance between the poem’s worldly material and spiritual tone. It is a mark of their success that Gray’s renditions pull the reader along as they attain liftoff.”

Ratik Asokan’s review of the book appeared in 4Columns magazine on April 1, 2022:

“These are, as Farrokhzad wanted them to be, anxious, angular poems, as unorthodox when composed in traditional forms as when they skitter across the page in free verse. “I am a simple person,” she once said, “and since a poem comes [to me] so naturally, as naturally as my conversation, this simplicity is reflected in the poem.” By this she meant that, on the page, her language and her sentiments possess an authenticity and directness that is served rather than diminished by formal constraint. Gray’s translations are accordingly honest and unassuming: they never rhyme, are rarely alliterative, and generally opt for the most straightforward phrasing available. Instead of dialing up the drama, they allow Farrokhzad’s own uneasy tones to be heard with new clarity, strength, and a ferocious self-possession. This is the voice of a person and a poet, not an icon or ghost.”

“Catastrophic Desires,” Anahid Nersessian’s comprehensive review, appeared in the print and online editions of The New York Review of Books on May 12, 2022:

“Farrokhzad wrote poetry as a kind of arson; it annihilates. But afterward, something happens: the most essential structures remain, the most essential self. Everything superfluous burns away… Rarely has a poet so totally depicted the erotic force of longing and the ways in which obsession can alternate between destruction and fecundity.”

“Controlled Burn,” Rhian Sasseen’s comprehensive review, appeared on The Poetry Foundation’s website on April 11, 2022:

“This volume from New Directions offers a selection of poems heavy with grief and desire, in crisp translations (and with a brief and fascinating introduction) by Elizabeth T. Gray, Jr., including the posthumous collection from which this book borrows its title, written before Farrokhzad’s tragic death in a car accident in 1967. Even in translation and more than a half-century after the poet’s death, these poems are bracing in their intimacy and power…”

The Poetry Society of America included Let Us Believe in the Beginning of the Cold Season in Richie Hoffman’s edition of “The Poet’s Nightstand” in April 2022:

“This collection of Farrokhzad’s poetry, spanning the breadth of her life, offers a fantastic look at the violence of men and the intimacy that can occur between two people. It’s tactile and visceral when it needs to be, with a compelling amount of the mystical to boot: “I speak from the limit of night / I speak from the limit of darkness / and of the limit of night.”

Tobias Carroll, at Words Without Borders, included Let Us Believe in the Beginning of the Cold Season in its Watchlist recommendations for April 2022, with a brief review:

“Farrokhzad’s international reputation has a solid basis. Although she has been held up as a feminist icon, she believed that gender was irrelevant to artistic merit and that literature had to address fundamental human issues. Let Us Believe in the Beginning of the Cold Season demonstrates that Farrokhzad put her beliefs into practice, which is why her work endures. The current translation will be a valuable contribution to literature if it renews discussion of her poems or brings them to new readers.”

The World Socialist Web Site posted a review by Eric Schreiber on June 22, 2022: