|Pain and hope
Simin Behbahani's poetry reading in Toronto
October 16, 2002
Earlier this month, Toronto's Iranian community was fortunate to host a woman
whose strong words have given poetry a divine meaning. Simin Behbahani gave a lecture
and read a series of her poetry to a group of enthusiastic fans. She also presented
her latest book "Yeki masalan in keh...".
Welcomed by Reza Baraheni, the president of PEN Canada, Behbahani at the age of 75
appeared on the stage with her warm gracious smile, and began telling the tales of
pain, torture, inequality, courage and strength with her mesmerizing voice.
Through her poems, stories and forthright sense of humor, Behbahani connected with
her audience as she revealed the realism of present-day Iran. Most of the poems she
read were from her latest collections and each carried with it, a bitter remembrance
Through her solid, clear, defined, and deep language, she illustrated the economic,
social, and political predicaments that Iranians face today. She continuously challenged
the traditional roles and marginality that women tackle, and she wrangled with the
patriarchal authorities that have tried to silence her.
She read a touching poem that reflected on last year's serial killer in Mashhad,
whose victims were prostitutes, and she incessantly objected to the status of women
in Iran. She sighed and delivered poems that reflected the captivity of the youth
and university students, and the walls surrounding them.
She sighed and recalled the killings of fellow writers and many scholars. When a
member in the audience asked about the activities of writers in Iran, she said that
although the number of poets and
writers have trippled in recent years, they still face many dilemmas and have very
limited chances of being active. And of course there are so many whose sufferings
are never expressed. Behbahani also stated that with the price of books continuously
rising, not too many people could afford to read, considering their low income levels.
With all that, Behbahani has made it through as a woman in a male-dominated environment.
But despite what she continues to face in a prison called "home", I was
amazed to see the optimism in her words. She ended almost every distressing poem
with a simple, yet hopeful line that said "it will get better".
The evening was magnificent, at times joyful, filled with laughter. At times it was
eartbreaking, filled with silence. But no doubt, it was a precious chance to meet
a woman who is not just a warrior but also a survivor. Behbanai not only inspired
me as an Iranian woman, but she reminded me of where I come from and what I can be.