Public Discourse in Behbahani’s Poetry

The main analytical focus of this article is Behbahani’s well-known poem, "I Will Rebuild You, Oh My Country,” which was published in 1981. The analysis is in the context of the poet’s overall work, with a view to the period the poem was written and published, and against the recent socio political trends in the Iranian society where the poem has been read and interpreted anew. Specifically, the article attempts to explain how recent rereading of this particular poem may signify not only a change in the nature of Behbahani’s work, but also in the current literary discourse. At the time of its publication, the poem was widely considered as a poem about Iran-Iraq war and its consequences. In recent years, however, it has been mostly read and interpreted in a different light and thus regained its original popularity. It has, in fact, become one of the most recognizable patriotic ballads sung by a number of famous Iranian pop singers.

The article further illustrates how Behbahani's works in general reflect different social and political discourses over the last several decades and how she has contributed to the rise of new discourses in one of the most tumultuous periods in Iran’s contemporary history. One of the reasons for the poet’s immense popularity, the article argues, is that her poetry (and for that matter her prose) have certain narrative quality which has made them relevant throughout this period. More precisely, the most intriguing aspect of Behbahani's work is the tight network she constructs between the self, the poetry, and the narrative. This may in part be explained by the fact that modern Persian literature consists of several episodic literary movements that have delved into and portrayed not only the individual self but the collective identity of Iranian polity and society. Perhaps, however, only Behbahani has managed to reconcile her inner self with the larger episodic self.

Kamran Talattof
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