That weekend, on Fourth Street
Where the No. One meets the Nine,
It was only I
Who brought the two lines together.

The line going downtown
Carried sleepy immigrant men to work.
The other line turned round
Taking maids to wealthy homes,
And it dropped me off at a foothill.

In the canyon, I constantly asked myself:
When will these  working families
Sit on the same line?

When did you first publish poetry?

In 1965, when I was 13, “Jong”, a prestigious literary journal, published two of my poems in Isfahan, Iran.

 

Who were your influences?

First and foremost, Walt Whitman. When I was 11, two bilingual collections of poetry by Walt Whitman and Robert Frost were published in Iran. I did not like Frost’s book because the Persian translator had composed it in meter and ruined the English poetry. But Whitman’s Leaves of Grass¬† was translated in free verse and had kept the free spirit of the original. One of my first poems was written after Whitman’s “A Song of Myself.” Among modernist Iranian poets, I loved Nima Yushij’s nature poetry, Ahmad Shamlu’s protest and love poems, Forough Farokhzad’s feminine sensitivity and Sohrab Sepehri’s nature-mystic poetry. Among Persian classics, I read Ferdowsi’s epics, Rumi’s mystical poetry, Sa’di’s humanistic verse and prose, Hafez’ lyrics, and Nezami’s narrative romances. Many of these works are available today in English.