This week’s blog assortment turned out purely aspirational, from an interview with Iran’s greatest living poet, to honors for Ada Lovelace Day, the country’s first computer programmer, to Anjelica Huston reflecting on what she knows now that she didn’t at 20.
- We’ve often featured Tish Jett’s A Femme d’un Certain Age, but we agree with WVFC’s Stacey Bewkes that this week Jett has outdone herself with Famous Faces of a Certain Age. Click over for iconic and new photos of Toni Morrison, Gloria Steinem, Brigitte Bardot, Dominique Sanda, and many others, well-narrated: “As Jacqueline pointed out yesterday, broaden the issue, ‘Let’s discuss what makes these women beautiful.’ Someone else said, ‘They are themselves with a vengeance.’ How great is that?”
- In her Fall Theater Review at Broadway & Me, Jan Simpson calls our attention to the latest work by one of our most beloved actors: “Linda Lavin passed on both the chance to play the showbiz trouper Hattie Walker who sings “Broadway Baby” in Follies and the role of the aunt in Other Desert Cities so that she could portray the mother in The Lyons, Nicky Silver’s new play about a family struggling to come to terms with the death of the husband and father who bound them together. Mark Brokaw is directing the play, which is being done at the Vineyard Theatre. I don’t know anything more about it than that. But if it’s good enough for the prodigiously talented Lavin to give up a shot at two Broadway shows, that’s more than good enough for me.”
- Did you know that this Friday is Ada Lovelace Day, dedicated to women in science, technology, engineering, and math? We just found out, and the birthday of the country’s first computer programmer is worth both a cheer and a push to embrace the next generation. At Big Think, Megan Ericksen asks the not-yet-obsolete question, “Where Are All the Women Scientists?” With video of First Lady Michelle Obama at the National Science Foundation, Ericksen says they’re not born without early encouragement: “Of course there’s nothing wrong with a long, financially-dependent life in the liberal arts, but there is something amiss when you’ve decided — or been told — that you’re just no good at math and science before you’ve hit fifteen. As teachers and parents will attest, whatever sociological forces are dividing women and men into paths as nurses or radiologists, daycare providers or professors, they are in full swing by high school.”
- We’re guessing that Jacki Lyden —WVFC contributor, NPR journalist, and author of Daughter of the Queen of Sheba — will be glad to to see Guernica Magazine‘s interview with Iran’s most prominent poet, two-time Nobel nominee, Simin Behbahāni, who speaks about “the greatest epic in history, the nightmare of censorship, and why her country will eventually achieve democracy.” The poet, writes interviewer Shiva Rahnbaran, “is optimistic about where Persian thought and literature are headed despite Iranian society’s many post-revolution disillusionments.”
- Also optimistic, it seems, is Anjelica Huston, who just gave a series of interviews at Style Goes Strong, the new style section of Life Goes Strong. In the second, she answers our perpetual question, What Do You Now Know That You Didn’t Know When You were 20? A lot, apparently: “I don’t think you want life to just be the same old, same old. You don’t want it to be old hat. I still want to feel my nerves sizzling. For instance, I just started on a new series called ‘Smash’ about Broadway and it’s filmed in NYC. I moved from California to New York and I’ll be in a brand new city for six or seven months of the year now… I’ve been living in California for the past 30 years. I took my dogs and moved into an apartment in New York. I can’t believe that I moved cross country! Life is changing very fast for me now, but at the same time it’s not a bad thing. All my friends are saying it’s good. Yes, it’s scary, but what I know now that I didn’t know when I was younger is that change is not a bad thing. It’s new and it’s good. You embrace your fears and you just do it.” Below, two clips — one of Huston’s dazzling 20-something debut in Prizzi’s Honor, and one talking about her new film, 50/50:
During last summer’s protests in Iran, while WVFC ran notes from NPR’s Jacki Lyden and honored the iconic Forugh Farrokhzad on Poetry Friday, we never got to mention the country’s current, prized poet laureate Simin Khalili, also known by her pseudonym ‘Behbahani’ — who was hailed by the Washington Post’s Nora Boustany as “A poet who never lost her pen or soul.”
This week, Behbahani’s name and face streamed across the headlines yet again: After returning to Iran after years of exile and talking to the media about the protests, the 82-year-old poet has been barred from traveling outside the country. She told the BBC that “The moment I was due to get on the plane, a man came and took my passport away from me and said that I was banned from going abroad.” It’s not surprising, giving the international reputation enjoyed by the Nobel Prize-nominated poet.
According to the Persian Cultural Foundation, which held a symposium on her work last year in Toronto, Behbahani was born in 1927 in Tehran to literary parents: noted feminist author Fakhr Ozma Arghoon was her mother and writer and newspaper editor Abbas Khalili was her father. She began writing poetry at fourteen. She’s now widely credited with reinventing the ancient Sufi verse form, the ghazal, making “a historic development in the form … as she added theatrical subjects and daily events.”
By the turn of the 20th century, Behbhani was Iran’s most famous living female poet, and inspired loyalty that reached far beyond her command of verse form. In 2006, she told The Washington Post about being approached by police during International Women’s Day:
“Hey, don’t hurt this lady. She is Simin Behbahani,” a student in the crowd protested. “If you touch her, I will set myself on fire.”His outburst enraged the police. One of the officers lashed Behbahani’s right arm and back with a whip and then beat her with a club that emitted electric shocks, she recalled. A passing policeman recognized her, intervened and bundled her into a taxi.
Behbahani is close to Shirin Ebadi, the Iranian exile poet WVFC recently named as one of our Nine Women to Run the World. Like Ebadi, Behbahani has been vocal in support of the “green movement” in Iran following the disputed 2009 elections. When stopped last week she was on her way to Paris, where she was scheduled to read one of her poems.
Below, we present video of Behbahani speaking at UCLA in 2004 (in Persian, but you can see the charisma Tehran may fear), and one of her classic poems.
GRACEFULLY SHE APPROACHED
Gracefully she approached,
in a dress of bright blue silk;
With an olive branch in her hand,
and many tales of sorrows in her eyes.
Running to her, I greeted her,
and took her hand in mine:
Pulses could still be felt in her veins;
warm was still her body with life.
“But you are dead, mother”, I said;
“Oh, many years ago you died!”
Neither of embalmment she smelled,
Nor in a shroud was she wrapped.
I gave a glance at the olive branch;
she held it out to me,
And said with a smile,
“It is the sign of peace; take it.”
I took it from her and said,
“Yes, it is the sign of…”, when
My voice and peace were broken
by the violent arrival of a horseman.
He carried a dagger under his tunic
with which he shaped the olive branch
Into a rod and looking at it
he said to himself:
“Not too bad a cane
for punishing the sinners!”
A real image of a hellish pain!
Then, to hide the rod,
He opened his saddlebag.
in there, O God!
I saw a dead dove, with a string tied
round its broken neck.
My mother walked away with anger and sorrow;
my eyes followed her;
Like the mourners she wore
a dress of black silk.