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MTV-U's Poet Laureate: Simin Behbahani

By Scott Harrop, Just World News

MTV (Music Television) "University" has selected Simin Behbahani, "the poet who never sold her soul or her pen," to be its second poet laureate.  For a visually challenged 82-years-young Iranian, how cool is that?  Beginning Monday, Nov. 2nd Behbahani's poems will be featured on MTV-U in a series of 19 short films.


Simin Behbahani (photo by Syma Sayyah)


Why would MTV do this? Is it political? In the The Wall Street Journal, MTV senior Vice President Ross Martin explains:

"Her poems speak to us because they are from a part of the world that is front of mind and confusing... We know there's a groundswell on U.S. campuses advocating freedom and an end to oppression in Iran. mtvU has a responsibility to hear that cry and respond to it."


view more videos on MTV's site


Amid Iran's post election tumult, millions around the world heard Behbahani's timeless lament at the death of Neda Soltani:

You are neither dead, nor will you die

You will always remain alive

You have an eternal existence

You are the voice of the people of Iran


Yet it is Behbahani, the reputed "Lioness of Iran," who will now re-introduce millions of the world's youth to Iran, through the medium of rock 'n roll, music television, in her universal voice.

When Iran's President Ahmadinejad dismissed those who protested the election's legitimacy as mere "dirt," Behbahani hurled the insult back, with the pen:

"If the flames of anger rise any higher in this land

Your name on your tombstone will be covered with dirt


view more videos on MTV's site


Yet MTV's featuring of Behbahani should not be interpreted as adding to the cacophony of voices pining for more invasions, war, sanctions, bloodshed. Nearly 30 years ago, Behbahani wrote of her horror in seeing a martial fever for war arise in her students then:

Oh, the child of today

If war is what you want

I am the child of yesterday

To me, war is shameful


MTV's Ross Martin further explains the choice of Behbahani on his own blog,

"Behbahani's poetry champions women's rights and acts as a voice of peace and freedom during a time of political and social upheaval. Twice, she has been nominated for the Nobel Prize in Poetry. Her poems illuminate not only the struggle of Iran but also the extreme beauty of the land, its people, and its history."

Martin also notes how none of this would have been possible were it not for the literary skills and devotion of Professor Farzaneh Milani. Her translations bring Behbahani's "iconic" poems to life in English. If Behbahani is Iran's national poet, Milani has rendered her the world's.

To stay alive, you must slay silence,

to pay homage to being, you must sing....

... Payvand News - 11/04/09 ... --

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