Poetry Sunday: “Sin,” by Forough Farrokhzad



I’ve sinned a sin of pleasure
in a warm, enflamed embrace,
sinned in a pair of vindictive arms,
arms violent and ablaze.

In that quiet empty darkness
I looked into his mystic eyes,
finding such longing that my heart
fluttered impatiently in my breast.

In that quiet empty darkness
I sat beside him, drunk
on desire spilled from his lips onto mine,
and grief clenched my crazed heart.

I poured songs of love into his ears:
O my life, my lover, it’s you I want,
life-giving arms, it’s you I crave.
Crazed lover, it’s you I thirst for.

Lust enflamed his eyes.
Red wine trembled in the cup,
my body, naked and drunk,
quivered on his chest.

I’ve sinned a sin of pleasure
beside a body quavering and spent.
I don’t know what I did, O God,
in that quiet empty darkness.


Forough Farrokhzad, 1955, translated by Jasmin Darznik, copyright 2017. From Song of a Captive Bird (Ballantine Books 2018), available for order here, or on Amazon here.


Forough (also spelled Forugh) Farrokhzad was born in Tehran in 1935 to a career military officer and his wife. The third of seven children, she attended school until ninth grade, then was taught painting and sewing at a girls’ school. At the age of 16 she married satirist Parviz Shapour and a year later gave birth to her only child, a son, whom she lost when the couple divorced soon afterwards. Farrokhzad moved back to Tehran to write poetry, and The Captive was published in 1955. A divorcée writing controversial poetry with a strong feminine voice, Farrokhzad drew significant negative public attention and open disapproval. She spent nine months in Europe in 1958, and after returning to Iran worked and reportedly had an affair with filmmaker and writer Ebrahim Golestan. She published two more volumes, The Wall and The Rebellion, before traveling to Tabriz in 1962 to make a documentary film, The House is Black, about Iranians affected by leprosyAnother Birth was published in 1964.

Farrokhzad died in a car accident on February 13, 1967, at the age of 32, and her famous poem “Let us Believe in the Beginning of the Cold Season” was published posthumously. Her poetry was banned for more than a decade after the Islamic Revolution, but readers continue to make and circulate copies of Farrokhzad’s poems, and she is well known to and beloved of many readers in Iran and elsewhere today. She wrote when, as now, Iranian women faced deeply-rooted and widespread discrimination and prejudice, and she is widely regarded as Iran’s leading women poet and an advocate for women’s liberation and independence everywhere.

Jasmin Darznik is the author of Song of a Captive Bird as well as The New York Times bestselling memoir The Good Daughter. Her books have been published in sixteen countries and her essays have appeared in numerous periodicals, including The New York Times, Washington Post, and Los Angeles Times.



Translator’s Note

Brought up in Tehran during the 1940s and 1950s, Forugh Farrokhzad, or “Forugh” as she became known, was the first woman to transcend the label of “poetess” without the support or patronage of a man, becoming a poet of tremendous accomplishment. She was not yet twenty when she wrote “The Sin,” a poem so candid and daring that its publication in 1955 made her the most notorious woman in the country. Her five books of poetry cemented her reputation as a rebel. An exile in her own country, she turned her lens on those banished to the fringes of society. Again and again, she flung herself fearlessly into life, voicing passion and protest at a time when many still believed women shouldn’t be heard from at all. She was simply too creative, too gutsy, and too ambitious to be silenced. The risks she took cost her a great deal, but they also made her the artist she became. Her poems still offer an extraordinary reading experience more than a half-century after they were first composed: the subject matter is daring, the language unfettered, and the point of view direct and unapologetic. More than perhaps any other writer, Forugh gave Iranian women permission to be bold, furious, lustful, and rapturous. She ripped off the decorous conventions, holding up a mirror to women’s hopes and pain, cutting a path through Iranian literature with her courage and candor. For me, a young Iranian-American woman coming of age in 1990s California, reading Forugh’s poems felt like crossing into a different country, into a different idea of what it meant to be a woman, into different possibilities for whom I myself could become.

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  • Ramona Howard April 8, 2018 at 12:59 pm

    This Sunday’s offering lifted my spirits. Reading Jazmin Darznik’s brief description of Forough Farrokhzad’s life and works reinforces the message that the arts fill such a need in the human condition. The struggle of women in all cultures to gain a voice has historically been a slow process, but, nonetheless, it moves forward–Forough and Darznik are proof of that forward movement. Thank you for today’s poetic offering and each Sunday’s offering. Your column adds such positive moments to my life!