The strength of Faroogh Farrokhzaad’s “A Rebirth” comes not only from the words and images portrayed in her poem but also from the free-flowing meter and lack of rhyme. The free verse form sharply contrasts the style of her earlier poetry and reflects the dramatic transitions the poet was experiencing in her life. As she struggled to find a new definition of self, one that could rise above the oppressive female role set upon her by her Iranian culture, she simultaneously broke through the formal structure of the traditional Iranian poetry that had previously influenced her writing. Another Iranian poet, Farzaneh Milani, writes in a critical essay published in the poetry collection A Rebirth, from which the poem is taken, that Farrokhzaad’s newfound voice and poetic form “attest to long years of formal confrontation with language, a diligent practice of the craft coupled with years of reflection and inner unfolding.” In this fourth collection of Farrokhzaad’s poetic works, and especially in the title poem, she demonstrates that in her life and in her writing, she has been reborn.
“Rebirth” was first published in Iran in 1964, just a few years before the poet’s death. The entire collection of poems (and specifically the title poem) was dedicated to her lover of many years, Ibrahim Golestan, an Iranian short story writer and cinematographer. Golestan was reportedly the biggest influence in helping Farrokhzaad reach this dramatic transformation in her life and in her writing style. In turn, Farrokhzaad influenced a whole generation of Iranian women, who traveled with her through her poetry in her struggle to find freedom and a new definition of life.
In the first short section of “A Rebirth,” the speaker sets up the theme of her poem, that of rebirth. She first describes the general emotion that weaves through her many births and deaths. Then she defines the power of the residue of those changes that affects the people who become involved in her many transformations.
She states that her life is a dark sign, or a foreboding message, almost as if she is warning the reader or anyone who becomes involved in her life that her sadness will sweep over them; and they may suffer as she has suffered. This sign will take you, she writes, “again and again,” referring to the cycle of death and birth, death and reawakening to a new life form. Her life, she insinuates, has been filled with sorrow, no matter how many times it has been transformed. And the sadness of her life will influence the “you” she addresses in the first stanza. The speaker then states that the dark sign of her life will take the person addressed “to eternal dawn / bloomings and eternal growth.” It will do so through an “incantation of itself,” a phrase that could denote a prayer, a chant, or even a spell that might curse the person who becomes involved in her life. “I joined you,” the speaker states, “to tree and water and fire.” Note that the speaker did not say that she had “joined with “you,” but rather she merely “joined you.” The speaker might be returning to the statements in the first lines of the poem and is insinuating that through association with her (because she is a dark sign) this “you” is joined to the traumatic incidents in her life, which have transformed her. She may be referring to the tree as life itself. Water might be a form of nourishment or could also reflect tears. Fire might refer to the so-called hotter emotions of anger or passion. The “you” is joined to these elements because the speaker has “versified” him or her, placed the “you” there through the poetry of her transitions.
Section two is the longest part of the poem. In it, the speaker attempts to define life, her need for love, and the weight of her art and her loneliness.
With the word “perhaps,” the speaker begins several lines in which she tries to define life. Maybe life is the everyday occurrence of a...
(The entire section is 1,950 words.)