||This article may require cleanup to meet Wikipedia's quality standards. (July 2009)|
October 7, 1928|
|Died||April 21, 1980
|Resting place||Mashhad-eh Ardahal, Kashan|
|Occupation||Persian Poet and Painter.|
He was born in Kashan in Isfahan province. He is considered to be one of the five most famous modern Persian (Iranian) poets who have practised "New Poetry" (a kind of poetry that often has neither meter nor rhyme). Other practitioners of this form were Nima Youshij, Ahmad Shamlou, Mehdi Akhavan-Sales, and Forough Farrokhzad.
Sohrab Sepehri was also one of Iran's foremost modernist painters.
Sepehri died in Pars hospital in Tehran of leukemia. His poetry is full of humanity and concern for human values. He loved nature and refers to it frequently. The poetry of Sohrab Sepehri bears great resemblance to that of E.E. Cummings.
Well-versed in Buddhism, mysticism and Western traditions, he mingled the Western concepts with Eastern ones, thereby creating a kind of poetry unsurpassed in the history of Persian literature. To him, new forms were new means to express his thoughts and feelings.
Translated by Ismail Salami
Past the border of my dream
The shadow of a morning glory
Had darkened all these ruins
What intrepid wind
Transported the morning glory seed to the land of my Nod?
Beyond glass gates of dream
In the bottomless marsh of mirrors
Wherever I had taken a piece of myself
A morning glory had sprouted
Forever pouring into the void of my soul
And in the sound of its blossoming
I was forever dying in myself
The veranda roof caves in
And the morning glory twines about all columns
What intrepid wind
Transports this morning glory seed to the land of my Nod?
The morning glory germinates
Its stem rising out of my transparent sleep
I was in a dream
Flood of wakefulness overflowed.
To the view of my dream ruins I opened eyes:
The morning glory had twined all about my life.
I was flowing in its veins
It rooted in me
It was all of me
What intrepid wind
Transported this morning glory seed to the land of my Nod?
NEAR A DISTANT REALM
There was a woman at the door
Standing with a body as ever
I approached her:
Her image flooded my eyes.
Speech turned into wings of passion and knowledge.
Shadow turned into sun.
I walk out in the sun
I was carried away by pleasing signs:
I went as far as childhood and sands
As far as delightful mistakes
As far as abstract objects
I neared picturesque waters
And trees laden with pears
With an ever-present trunk
I breathed with the wet truth.
My feeling of wonder mingled with the tree.
I perceived I abutted on the throne of God
I felt a bit distraught.
Man goes to seek solace
When he feels crestfallen.
I did too.
I went as far as the table
The yogurt’s taste, the fresh green plants
There was bread to eat with a cup and saucer:
My throat pined for a goblet of vodka.
The woman was there at the door
Standing with a body of deadly wounds.
An empty can
Kept paring away
The water's throat.
THE FLOW OF WATER
Still nestled by springs,
Indulged himself in his azure philosophy
In the delicate indolence of a meadow.
His thoughts flew with the bird.
He breathed with trees.
He was submissive to the poppy's conditions.
Intrepid meanings of the waters
Roared in the depths of his speech.
In the context of the elements
And woke up
In dawning fear.
The strange music of growth
In the frail joints of his joys
And dust settled
On his struggling knees.
His creative fingers,
Idled and got lost
In precisely geometrical grief.
THE OLD TALE OF NIGHT
O you lost in the stellar green wonders!
The fig of ignorance
Epitomizes the virgin rocks
The heart of water is pining
For the reflection of a garden
The everyday apple tastes of illusion in the mouth.
O old fear!
My fingers went numb when you came to me.
My hands know no fear:
Tonight they pluck fruits
From the branches of myths.
Each tree bears
As many leaves as my fears.
Audacious speech thawed in the burning meeting of eyes
O colorful beginnings!
Protect my eyes from the evil magic:
I am still
Unknown nocturnal blessings.
I am still
Look like ancient magic words.
On the meadows
We had our last carnal feast before words began.
In this feast, the music of stars
Fell upon my ears from inside the potteries.
And my eyes reflected the swarms of migrating magicians.
O ancient mirror of narcissus in sorrow!
Ecstasy carried me away.
- To the realm of growth?
Let us drink water of wisdom when we thirst for speech.
The pure modesty of speech
Flows under the strewn legacy of night:
Before syllables came into being,
The living had their resurrection.
From among the rivals
Arrogant speech cracked my jaws.
Then I, wading knee-high
In pure vegetable silence,
Bathed my hands and face in the sight of objects.
Then, in another season,
My shoes got wet
With the word of dew
Then, I sat down on a rock
And listened to the pebbles migrating past my feet.
Then I perceived
That each branch Escaped the season of my hands.
O counterfeit night!
My kerchief filled with unripe clusters of prudence.
From behind the wall of a deep sleep,
A bird flew out of intimate darkness
And took my kerchief away.
The first pebble of inspiration echoed under my feet.
My blood tenderly hosted the space.
My pulse swam over the elements.
No, what am I saying?
The illumination of window warmed up the listener's cold body,
My fingers traveled in the direction of love.
A boat I will shape
Translation: Morteza Heydari Araghi
A boat I will shape,
and will let free into sea,
will go farther away from this bizarre land,
where nobody, in this land of love,
pulls the heroes out of sleep.
A boat, free of sail,
and will shape away heart from the dream of pearl.
Neither I lie with blues,
Nor seas- water fairies, whose heads on surface,
who enchant from the spring of their hairs
on fisherman's sunlight of lonely dares.
will run so
will sing so:
shall go far, farther away.
Men? no tales.
Women? not as cheerful as a cluster of grapes.
No chamber of mirrors doubled the drinking spree.
Even water didn't let a torch fire-free.
shall go far, farther away.
night sang its song, it's the windows' day.
will run so.
will sing so.
Beyond the sea, there is a city,
where the windows are open to expressions.
and the roofs are places for pigeons who watch the fountain of the human mind.
In the hands of each 1o year old child, is a flower of knowledge.
People of the city see a bait, like a flame, a soft dream.
The earth hears the music of your feeling,
and calls in wind, story-telling birds' wing.
Beyond the sea, there is a city,
where sun extents to the size of daybreakers' eyes.
Poets heir water, wisdom and light.
Beyond the sea, there is a city,
A boat I must shape.
The Address Translation: Maryam Dilmaghani
At the first light of the dawn
Asked the pilgrim:
"Do you happen to know
the abode of The Beloved?"
The skies went silent
save their mourning clouds,
save their falling stars.
The passer gave up his glowing twig
to the gloom of the sands
“Don’t you see that poplar tree?
Well, right before the tree,
There is lane that you’ll reckon, I deem.
For it is greener than a heavenly dream.
For it is generously shaded with the deep blues of love.
Well, If you See.
So walk down that lane
You’ll arrive to the garden of sense
Turn to the direction of the loner lake
Listen to the genuine hymn of leaves
Watch the eternal fountain
that flows from the spring of ancient myths
till you faint away in a plain fear.
And when a rigid noise clatter into the fluid intimacy of space
you'll find a child
on the top of a tree,
next to the nest of awls
in hope of a golden egg.
Well, if you See.
You may be sure; the child'll show you the way.
Well, If you just ask about
the abode of The Beloved.”
Another poem By Sohrab Sepehri 
Translated by Neima Jahromi
I’ve never seen two rival pines.
I’ve never seen a willow
Sell its shadow to the earth.
An oak happily offers
Its branch to the raven.
And wherever there is a leaf,
and in me, passion blossoms.
Another poem By Sohrab Sepehri 
Translated by Persica Australis
I saw not two trees become foe.
I saw not a willow,
Sell its shade to the earth.
Benevolently it shares,
The elm its branch to the raven.
Wherever there is a leaf,
My Passion blossoms.
The Lover Is Always Alone 
Translated by Farid Moslehi
The lover is always alone,
and the lover's hand is held by the delicate hand of the seconds,
and he and the seconds travel to the other side of the day,
and he and the seconds sleep on a bed of light,
and he and the seconds bestow upon water the greatest book in the world,
and they know all too well that no fish ever untied the thousand and one knots of the river ....
The Lover Is Always Alone 
The translations have been retrieved from the book The Lover is Always Alone by Karim Emami.
A self-selected anthology of his poems, Hasht Ketab (Eight Books) has been a perennial bestseller ever since it was published in 1976. Karim Emami, the translator of Sepehri’s poems, “The lover is always alone”, states that,
“In the land of poetry, the immortals - Hafez, Saadi, Rumi, Ferdowsi, and Khayyam - always top the list of most frequently reprinted titles, but the modernists are not in this league, except perhaps for Sepehri (1).”
The most avid readers of Sepehri's poems are the younger generation-high school and university students of both sexes. Both men and women graduates look up to Sepehri almost as a spiritual mentor and guide. The number of articles written regularly about him in the popular press is simply staggering. Unlike so many other contemporary Iranian poets, Sepehri does not have a political agenda. Emami states that, “He [Sepehri] is not sloganeer preaching, overtly or covertly, the downfall of the autocratic regime (1)”. He is apolitical. His poetry is a reflection of his deepest personal feelings and reflections on the smallest incidents of his daily life. Sepehri does not use the formal language of Persian literature or formal metrics. His poetic medium is free verse. The vocabulary offers everyday speech! Sepehri’s poems are very simple and understandable. His style of poetry amazes its readers because within the simplicity of his words, he offers so much beauty, and pays so much attention to simple and almost forgotten events that happen around him. Emami states his view on Sepehri’s poetry, “He praises life and God's myriad creations - everything, animate or inanimate, that he encounters under the sun. He is communion with nature, and wants us all to love it and respect its laws. His poems are full of aphorisms that he passes to us as pieces of advice, or as recommendations or even commandments (2)”.
Here are a couple of Sepehri’s poems that people often use as pieces of advice:
- Let's not muddy the water!
- Eyes should be washed to see things in a different way...
- Let's be simple everywhere.
Sepehri demonstrates his skills in his powers of observation, his imagery, and his expression of feeling. A part of his appeal must be that he is not like any other poet. In his own ways, he is unique. Sepehri was born in Kashan in 1928, in the first decade of Reza Shah Pahlavi’s reign and of the rapid modernization of the country. Kashan is located some 250 kilometers (160 mi) south of Tehran, built on the edge of the Kavir, the great salt desert. It is an old city, imbued with age-old traditions of Persian life. When Sohrab had finished 9th grade, he moved on to Tehran to attend a two-year teacher training course. He intended to become a primary school teacher, move back to his town and help support the family. He did so for a while; however, it did not last for more than two years as he then moved back to Tehran, to attend Tehran University's school of fine arts. Emami, translator of “The lover is always alone” states that, “He simply could not suppress his love for painting, which has become an all-consuming passion (3)”. To help support himself while attending the university, he found a job in an oil company, and later on in the public health organization. Emami says, “He was a restless soul and could not stay in one job for long (3).” At the University, he was attracted to the modern art movement, both in his painting and his poetry. The pioneering efforts of Nima Yushij, the father of modern Persian poetry in forging a new and liberated style of poetry appealed to him, and he soon gave up the old style of formal metrics which he had been practicing in Kashan. He went on to publish all the collection of his poems, "Eight Books" in 1976, which took thirty years of his life.
In 1979 he became ill with leukemia, and traveled to England to seek cure, but the treatment proved of no avail, and he eventually died after returning to Iran, in Tehran in the spring of 1980. Sepehri was buried according to his will in the village of Mashhad-e Ardahal, in the vicinity of Kashan. Although, he can no longer continue writing poetry, he is seen as the leader and a mentor to the new generation of Iranians. He is still very much alive within his works which have inspired too many people over the last two decades to convert to the new style of poetry, and to begin a new life style. The poem below, from “The Lover is Always Alone” appears on Sepehri’s gravestone, where he is buried in Kashan, Iran.
If you are coming to see me,
pray step gently, softly
Lest the thin shell of my loneliness
Should crack (Sepehri 154)."
The Lover is Always Alone is a collection of Sepehri’s poems translated into English by one of Iran’s finest translators, Karim Emami. The purpose of this book has been to introduce Sepehri’s poems to English speakers. It has also offered a deeper understanding of poems to its bilingual readers. This essay demonstrates the influence of Sepehri as poet, the social signification and it also demonstrates his political life.
Sepehri's poems offer different looks, and yet very simple ones, which separates him from other open-minded poems. He regards the nature phenomena and events which occur everyday and have been considered trivial by all on account of repetition, with a vision full of surprises and wonder. Pirouz Sayar, the author of "paintings and drawings of Sohrab Sepehri", states that, “He gazes at the sun as it rise, at the bird as it sings far away, at a bud which blossoms, at a plant which is growing in the pot, at the life which is going on among the trees in the valley, and the red rose which plunges the onlooker into its enchantment (249)”. Sohrab Sepehri had a significant vision, in both his poetry and painting. Mostafa Valiabdi who has made a movie about the poet’s life states that, “He is one of the few poets in Iran that had looked at West and its culture with open eyes and awareness (5)”. Some poets had rarely traveled outside of Iran and had little idea of the western culture. On the other hand they were some others who converted to the Western culture and changed their entire credos, life style and style of poetry. Sepehri had been inspired by Western countries, India, and Japan, but eventually he would go back to his hometown, Kashan, where his spirits and roots had always been. Sepehri's magnificent vision and poetry had made him more of a world citizen than an Iranian Poet per se. That is the way he introduces himself in the “Water’s footsteps”:
I come from Kashan
But Kashan is no longer my town.
My hometown has been lost.
With feverish effort, I have built myself a house
On the far side of the night (Sepehri 50)."
The "Wayfarer" demonstrates Sepehri’s vast vision in his poetry even more, and as a world citizen, someone who would see, notice, and appreciate beauty and art anywhere on the earth. That is a huge part of Sepehri's character and poetry, a restless soul that just wants to live as close as possible to the nature, where he is able to find God. Here is a part from Sepehri’s “Wayfarer”:
Wherever I am, let me be!
The Sky is mine.
The windows, the mind, the air, love, earth, are all mine.
What does it matter
if mushrooms of nostalgia
grow from time to time? (Sepehri 58)"
Sepehri’s love affair with Kashan and its plains did not keep him from traveling and exploring the world, which inspired his Poetry, painting, and vision toward life. The journey began in 1957, when he departed for France to study lithography, and was enrolled in Paris school of Fine Arts. In the following year, he settled in Rome, Italy for some time and took part in the Bienniel of Venice. He later returned to Iran resumed his work of painting. In the year 1960, he left for Japan to study the technique of wood engraving. During his stay in Japan, he visited several centers of Art, and became familiar with the work of Japanese artists. Thenceforth, Sepehri devoted all his time to creative art, and he held many exhibitions in Iran and abroad. In 1963 he took part in the Biennial of San Paulo in Brazil and a little later a group exhibition of Persian art at the museum of Le Havre, France. In 1964, he traveled to India and paid visits to the art centers of the country. In 1970 he traveled to the United States and during his few months of stay there he participated in a group exhibition in Bridgehampton city, and in 1971 in an individual exhibition in Cyprus Gallery in Paris, he went back to France and Paris at the invitation of the Art International Quarter. In 1976, he participated in the exhibitions of the Persian Contemporary art in the Art Bazaar held in Basel of Switzerland. Pirouz Sayar states that, “Sepehri is an artist who has been profoundly influenced by Oriental intellectual ideas and his particular vision and thought should be evaluated in this context. His deep understanding of the Persian Art and culture, combined with his familiarity with thoughts and art of the Far East and India, resulted in flourishing of his vision in a particular manner (249).”
New generation of Iranians, Sepehri's most avid readers, are more liberal and less prejudice, [old fashion thinkers] than the last generation. They are very eager to explore the world around them, and that leaves no doubt why Sepehri's characteristics in his poetry appeal to them very much. His poetry has become the language of the new generation, a generation that seeks new ideas, the generation that wants a bloodless revolution in many aspects of the old fashioned Persian life. In the last two decades, religion has been ruling Iran in all aspects of social and political life. Iranian youngsters encounter a paradox between their personal life and their social life. With the introduction of computer and internet, a huge wave of western culture has penetrated to Iran; however, the old fashion side of the society seems to remain unchanged. Still people have to fake their religions and beliefs, and there is no tolerance toward people who want to choose a path outside of the religion’s box.
Sepehri’s ideology of religion matches the new generation’s ways of thinking. He believes in faith, dignity, and truthfulness, and yet he is not religious in his poetry. Sepehri's god is not Allah, his god lies by the water, his god is among the trees, his god lives nearby! He creates a free and open environment in his poetry; he gives people the right to doubt anything before believing in it. According to Fahimeh Rastkar, the poet's close friend, “Sohrab was not a religious person, but he would set himself a limit for everything in life based on his own credos and values (8).” This poem, a part of “Water's Footstep”, describes Sepehri's mentality towards religion:
“I am a Moslem.
My Mecca is a rose.
My mosque is a spring, my prayer stone the light.
Fields make my prayer rug.
I make ablution with the heartbeat of the windows.
Moonlight flows through my prayers, the spectrum too.
My Kaaba lies by the water,
My Kaaba lies under the acacias.
My Kaaba travels like the breeze,
From one garden to the next,
From one town to another (Sepehri 28).”
When Sepehri was twenty three years old and had just written his first collection of poems, Iran was a monarchy under Mohammad Reza Pahlavi. The highlight of that era would be the Coup of 1953, an operation planned by CIA to remove Mohammad Mossadegh, prime minister of the time who passed the Oil nationalization act that led to British and Americans losing control of Iran’s oil industry. The coup of 1953 left behind some ugly memories from the American government in Iranian’s minds.
With the United States gaining more control in Middle East, they helped the Shah to re-install himself back into power by creating one of the most tortuous secret polices in the world, Savak.
Many artists and poets expressed their feelings toward the unelected Shah of Iran, Mohammad Reza Pahlavi, and his dictatorship by making their works do the talking. Poets reflected the problems of the society in their poems. They criticised Shah for letting the United States dominate in Iran. However, the society had very little capacity and patience toward those criticisms. Khosrow Golsorkhi, a journalist and a poet, became one of the victims of the government’s intolerance behavior. He was mysteriously killed by the secret police in 1974. Many chose to stay silent and stay away from politics, but others did what they could to better the society. With early efforts of Nima Yushij, Sepehri and his contemporary poets began a new era in modern Persian poetry, which was a dramatic revolution to the Persian literature. Sepehri did not have a political agenda, and he was never interested in getting involved in politics. He would keep himself busy by spending his entire time studying different kinds of arts, painting, and writing poems. This is precisely why he was disparaged by his "political conscious" fellow poets that he paid too much attention to his inner life too little to the social-political circumstances around him. Shamlu, one of Sepehri’s contemporary poets and a very successful one too, believed that poets must reflect their era in their works. “An innocent person is dying nearby, and Sepehri is standing by a tree and saying ‘Don’t muddy the water’, his poems reflect beauty, but that is not enough, beauty is not enough for me (Shamlu 108).” Sepehri’s poems do not reflect an era in time, and it is very hard to be able to recognize a specific period of time in his works. However, he offers innocence, beauty, freedom, purity, love, and faith in his poems. Sepehri’s poems reflect the stages of seeking perfection and ascension in the poet’s life. That is why his poems now stand on the peak of the modern Persian poetry, and have become ever lasting. Most of all, Sohrab Sepehri was a poet of the people.
In conclusion, the staggering number of articles that have been written about Sohrab Sepehri is the symbol of new generation’s attempts to find the ideal ideology and view toward life and to become familiar with who they are. Sepehri lived for fifty two years, and in his prolific life he visited many countries and spent all his times toward his passions, poetry and painting. The collection of his poems, “The Eight Books” is now one of the most popular books in Iran. Sepehri’s vision has been a vital key to his success. Although; he is apolitical and does not reflect his time in his works, the concepts that he demonstrates are truly timeless. He talks about being "simple", having a fresh attitude toward life, and living as close as possible to the nature. The English translation of Sepehri’s poems, “The lover is always alone” is a very successful beginning in introducing his poetry to the world. Hopefully Sepehri's poetry, will one day, become the language of our world, as Emami says, “In the age of rapid travel and communication, books still have their own magic means finding their way around the world (22).” The world that Sepehri lived in twenty seven years ago may have changed, but hope still very much exists. Yes, “One must live, as long as the poppies bloom”, as Sepehri had always said.
- Hasht Ketab (Eight Books) 1976
- The Death of Color 1951
- The Life of Dreams 1953
- Us nil, us a look Was not published until 1977
- Downpour of Sunshine 1958
- East of Sorrow 1961
- Water's Footfall (1965) translated by Kazim Ali with Mohammad Jafar Mahallati, Omnidawn, 2011.
- The Wayfarer 1966
- The Green Space 1967
Works cited 
- The Lover Is Always Alone. Trans. Karim Emami. Tehran: Sokhan,
- Sepehri, Sohrab, and Riccardo Zipoli. While poppies bloom: Poems and Panoramas. Trans. Karim Emami. Tehran: Zarrin-o-Simin Books, 2005.
- Bidi, Hamed. "Where Are My Shoes?" While Poppies Bloom. 12 Oct 2006. 24 Oct 2000
- Valiabdi, Mostafa. Hichestan.Tehran: Tiam, 2005.
- Karimi-Hakkak, Ahmad. Hasht Ketab: Professor Hakkak's view on the Sepehri's esthetic vision and significance.United States: Ketabe Gooya, 2005.
- Sepehri, Parvaneh. The Blue Room. Tehran: Gooya, 2003.
- Sepehri, Paridokht. Wherever I am, let me be! Tehran: Peykan, 2005.
- Sayar, Pirouz. Paintings and Drawings Of Sohrab Sepehri. Tehran: Soroush Press, 2002.
- Sepehri, Paridokht. Sohrab, the Migratory Bird. Tehran: Tahouri, 1996.
- Hamid Siahpoush. The Lonely Garden: Sohrab Sepehri's Remembrance. Tehran: Negah, 2003.
Sohrab Sepehri's life timeline 
- Born in 1928 – Kashan – Iran
- He hosted a painting exhibition - Tehran 1944
- He published his first poetry book that followed by a few other books in the same year - 1951
- He graduated from the fine arts university with B.A. degree in painting - Tehran – 1953
- He translated some Japanese poetry into Persian and published them in a literary magazine called Sokhan – 1955
- He traveled to Paris and attended the Paris Fine Arts School in lithography – 1957
- He traveled to Tokyo to further his studies in lithography and wood carving – 1960
- On the way back to Iran from Japan, he visited India and became familiar with the ideology of Buddhism – 1961
- He published three books in poetry – 1960
- He traveled to India again and visited several cities and provinces – 1964
- He traveled to Pakistan and Afghanistan 1964
- He traveled to Europe and visited several countries such as Germany,England,France,Spain,the Netherlands,Italy and Austria – 1966
- He published some long poems after he returned to Iran – 1966
- He hosted a painting exhibition in Tehran 1967
- He published another book in poetry 1967
- He traveled to Greece and Egypt – 1974
- He published his final book called ‘Hasht Ketab' (Eight Books), which was the collection of almost all of his published poems in one volume – 1976
- He got blood cancer and traveled to England for treatment – 1978
- Unfortunately, his attempt to defeat cancer brought him no result. He returned to Iran and died in Pars Hospital in Tehran on Monday April 21, 1980.
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to: Sohrab Sepehri|
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- Sohrab Sepehri's poem "Oasis of Now" in Gulf Coast: A Journal of Literature and Fine Arts (25.1).
- Rāmtin Almāsi, The Confidant of the Red Rose, in Persian, Jadid Online, 21 April 2010: .
- Audio slideshow of a number of Shorab Sepehri's drawings:  (3 min 31 sec).