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Master Poet Remembered on Maori Television


Master Poet Remembered on Maori Television

He passed away at the illustrious age of 75 in 2000 in a hospital in Tehran, Iran. Diabetes had finally and cruelly claimed his life, but his words of inspiration will continue to live on as Maori Television remembers Iran’s most significant wordsmith on AHMAD SHAMLOU – MASTER POET OF LIBERTY this Tuesday May 31 at 8.30 PM.

This documentary about one of the most important Iranian poets and cultural icons is conveyed through commentary with acclaimed Iranian filmmakers, intellectuals, artists, writers, poets and literary historians that reads like a who’s who of Middle Eastern intellectualism.

His poetry and outspoken views – especially those pertaining to freedom expression – were embraced by many Iranian intellectuals despite opposition encountered from both the Iranian Monarchy and the Islamic government that took over the country after the 1979 Revolution.

He explains his motives: “My poetry, I think, originates from my suppressed longing for music in the same way that the dance-like patterns of Persian rugs have their origin in a national desire for dance and music, which Islam had suppressed.”

Not only did he impress upon Iran’s linguistic landscape with determination, he was also celebrated in diverse parts of the world for his literary skills and received the Stig Dagerman Award from the Swedish Academy in June 1999 and was presented with the Freedom of Expression Award by the New York-based Human rights Watch in 1994. The climax came in 1984 when he was nominated for the Nobel Prize in Literature.

In his self-confessed ars poetica, or ultimate expression, he stakes his claim and purpose in the poem Poetry That is Life.

The subject of poets of yesteryear was not of life.
Today the theme of poetry is a different thing.
Poetry today is the weapon of the masses.
For poets themselves
are branches from the forest of the masses,
not jasmines and hyacinths of someone's greenhouse.

This self-determined poet would encounter repeated threats to his freedom of expression throughout his peppered and colourful life. Arrested in Tehran and imprisoned in Rasht was a toned down introduction to political activity in 1944, and he would go on to escape execution by a firing squad one year later. Further on in his life, he would be destined to go into exile for six months following the CIA-backed coup d’etat in 1953 before being imprisoned again.

However, political activism breeds notoriety and later in his life, he would catapult to become a sought-after voice for the masses through his publications, universities and eventually (and ironically) government departments.

AHMAD SHAMLOU – MASTER POET OF LIBERTY screens on Maori Television, this Tuesday May 31 at 8.30 PM.


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