Iranian fire and cotton
August 20th, 2014
Born and raised in Iran, Nilofar Shidmehr came to Canada in 1997 and has earned her MFA in Creative Writing from UBC. Before leaving Iran, Shidmehr translated Toni Morrison’s novel The Bluest Eye, from English to Farsi. Due to Iran’s divorce laws, Shidmehr’s daughter must remain in Iran. Shidmehr hopes one day to bring her to Vancouver. Her new poetry collection Between Lives (Oolichan $17.95) brings to light the violence and injustice of women’s lives in Iran and in the diaspora. “These poems,” writes Rachel Rose, “are the untold stories of contemporary Persian women’s lives, lives portrayed with intimacy and lyricism, despite their subjugation. These are poetics meditations that only a poet simultaneously intimate with a place, and exiled from it, can offer. In this book, men and women are like ‘fire and cotton,’ and must be kept apart; they are ‘flammable with the slightest spark.’ Nilofar Shidmehr’s poems burn with a fierce, haunting fire.”
Shidmehr’s novella in verse in 2008, Shirin and Salt Man (Oolichan $17.95), depicts a contemporary young woman from Kermanshah in the modern Islamic Republic of Iran who is under the thumb of her fundamentalist husband Khosro. To escape from his dominance, she imagines herself to be a princess depicted in an ancient Persian story called Shirin and Khosro. Gradually she decides to emancipate herself by running away from her husband in favour of Farhad, the mythical lover of princess Shirin, who takes the form of a 1700-year-old mummy from the Iranian National Museum in Tehran, the Salt Man. This book was nominated for the Dorothy Livesay Poetry Prize.
Shidmehr has since earned her Ph.D in Education at the Center for Cross Faculty Inquiry in Education. Her next scholarly project is to investigate “how the lyrical and performative modes of inquiry can be included in discourse analysis, literary criticism, and critical reading and writing practices to integrate and advance literacy.” She lives with her husband in Yaletown, Vancouver, where she is writing a collection of short stories about the lives of Iranians in Iran and Canada. Nilofar Shidmehr’s first book of poetry in Farsi, Two Nilofars: Before and After Migration, also reflects her concerns as educational activist within the Iranian women’s movement.