Dying in a Mother Tongue by Roja Chamankar, Translated by Blake Atwood
This collection of poetry by the celebrated southern Iranian poet and filmmaker Roja Chamankar (b. 1981) introduces English-speaking readers to one of the most accomplished and well-loved poets of her generation. Chamankar’s work blends surrealism and the southern coastal landscape of the poet’s upbringing with everyday experiences in rapidly urbanizing Tehran. While locating herself in the modernist tradition of Iranian poets like Forugh Farrokhzad and Ahmad Shamlu through form and imagery, Chamankar infuses this tradition with concerns unique to a generation that grew up in post-revolutionary Iran and endured the effects of the Iran-Iraq war. Seascapes, love and eroticism, the disconnection of modern life, and myths and fairytales figure prominently in these vivid, lyrical poems.
In the rich miniature worlds of Chamankar’s poetry, readers become privy to a range of experiences, from desire and pain to rage and humor. Sometimes abstract, other times surreal—Chamankar’s unique poetic voice, like the sea she returns to again and again, combines and sweeps these experiences to shore with assurance, strength, and beauty.