Forugh Farrokhzad: more than just poet

Students were introduced to the surprising and somewhat disquieting world of leprosy Wednesday evening when Nasrin Rahimieh, professor of comparative literature and Maseeh Chair and Director at the Dr. Samuel M. Jordan Center for Persian Studies and Culture at the University of California Irvine, showed a film on a leper colony in Iran and lectured on the film’s maker, Iranian poet Forugh Farrokhzad.

The documentary, titled “The House is Black,” was originally released in 1962.

Because leprosy is so contagious, many countries have “leper colonies,” where groups of afflicted individuals and their families live their lives. The majority of those with the disease featured in the film were missing fingers and had severe facial distortions.

“The film asks us to see things differently,” Rahimieh said.

The film portrayed the lepers going through their daily routines in their colony, or “House of Lepers.” While certain facts on the disease were given in the film, this information was deferred until after the viewers had the chance to see the regular, everyday lives of those afflicted.

“Delaying the factual information in the film, Farrokhzad requires the viewers to become actively engaged,” Rahimieh said.

The screening followed Rahimieh’s earlier lecture on Farrukhzad’s poetry.

During the hour and a half-long event, Rahminieh prepared three of Farukhzhad’s poems, which she discussed with the attendees: “Sin,” “Wind-Up Doll” and “I Am Sorry for the Garden.”

She read excerpts from all of the poems in Persian as well as in their English translations in order for the audience to better hear the intended “tones and resonances,” such as the heavy sighs that permeate “Wind-Up Doll,” her poem about the status of Iranian woman in the ’60s.

These events have been made possible by the two-year Title VI-A grant recently awarded to the department of Education, titled “Iran and Beyond: Strengthening the International Studies and Foreign Language Curriculum in Middle Eastern and Central Eurasian Studies.”

“There has also been a?steady increase in the interest of (College) students in the study of the ?

Middle East and Central Eurasia, which is one reason we applied for the DOE grant,” Jo-Ann Gross, head of Middle Eastern and Central Eurasian events, said. “One of the exciting initiatives is the introduction of the Persian language to the curriculum in fall 2009.”

More information on Farrokhzad can be found at forughfarrokhzad.org.

Brianna Gunter can be reached at gunter2@tcnj.edu and Laura Herzog at herzog2@tcnj.edu.