Feature > Interview > SPEAKING WITH SHIRIN RAZAVIAN BY MILAD MOLAVI
Shirin Razavian was born August 1967 in Tehran. Shirin has been writing poetry since the age of 9. While she is a poetess at heart and considers her informal education to be in Persian and English literature, she has a degree in Acountancy and Finance. She works as a management accountant in the London.
Shirin’s first Persian poetry book was published October 1995 and that was followed by a second book entitled “The Sad Universality of Oyster” in June 1999. Her third book of poems,”Sweet Sonnets”, includes 50 “Ghazals” on social and political themes and was published in March 2001.
Shirin has now forayed into English poems with a new book called “Rainbow of Memories” with co-poet and Russian poem translater Richard McKane.
Shirin has also worked with the Iranian P.E.N Centre in exile as their International Secretary for two years and is also a member of the chair committee of Exiled Writer Ink!
In an interview with PersianMirror, Shirin talks about her life story and future plans.
Milad Molavi: Who is Shirin Razavian?
Shirin Razavian: I am one of the children of Iran of revolution and war time and an exiled poet. I have been living in London for almost 20 years now. Even though London is now my home from home and I have found my life in this historical and highly cultured city, I don’t ever forget where I came from and why I am here. I moved here to be able to speak freely and be treated equally. It was a choice that was made for me by the particular circumstances at the time.
MM: What is the story of your immigration?
SR: I have been writing poetry from the age of 9. From the very beginning of writing, I found that I was most inspired and affected by social issues. Even though I came from an educated middle class family, but the plight of others had always left an impression on my soul and I found that these impressions started to shape the basis of my art.
In Iran, when you speak about social issues, you automatically step into the realm of politics. There is no clear line between talking about basic human rights and getting involved in politics. By the age of 14, I had gathered quite a little crowd of informal (you could call it “underground”) readers for my socially inspired poetry. This was living in Esfahan well into the Iran-Iraq war when fundamentalism was at its peak.
When my poetry was discovered by the Islamic committee in my first term at the University of Esfahan and I was questioned about it, my parents decided that it was time to put me on the carriage of exile. I left my country in tears and suffered terrible homesickness for years after that. It was never intended by me to be anywhere but in my homeland.
MM: Do you have any special training or education in Poetry?
SR: I did two high school diplomas in Iran. One was in literature and social sciences and the second one was in experimental sciences which was referred to as “Tajrobi” in Iran. I then entered the “Konkoor” exam and got my first choice which was Psychology at the University of Esfahan. However, I did not manage to finish more than one term before being discovered and fleeing the country. The major part of my literal education is informal. From a very young age I started reading and learning by heart some of the work of the greatest poets of Iran. The great Persian poets like Hafez, Khayam, Saadi and Molana. This was my informal education in literature. My actual higher education which I continued in London is in Accountancy and Finance. I work as a management accountant in the city.
MM: In your view, what does it take to become a poet?
SR: It took me years of sweat blood and tears to get where I am now. The road to reconciliation with an art that demands your whole existence was not an easy one to travel. I think you need a very sensitive soul with open receptors and a high command of language to be a poet.
Artists are always fantastic observers of reality who turn their observations into art. You need to have unusually raised awareness of your surrounding and interact with what happens in your world as well as being in touch with the higher self within.
MM: Who are your favourite Poets? And who has biggest influence on you?
SR: My favourite poets are: Hafez who is the king of “ghazal”. Also I admire the philosophy of Khayam and the passion of Rumi. From the more contemporary poets I love some of Shamlu’s work as well as Sohrab Spehri and Forough.
MM: What does success means for you?
SR: Success is reaching eternal peace and happiness within oneself. No matter how successful you may be on the outside, if your soul is diseased from inside, the whole success thing is meaningless.
Success for me is giving my best to the world of my poetry, my work and my family and loved ones.
Success is being a loving partner, a fantastic mother and a conscious artist, but without loving your inner self first you can’t love anyone else.
MM: What are your achievements and how do you feel towards them?
SR: I am very happy with my achievements so far, but there is still a long way to go. It is like embarking on a long journey. If you just think about getting to the destination, you don’t enjoy the journey itself. I try to enjoy as I go along. I think every time I write a poem that people like and relate to, that is an achievement for me. My biggest achievement is finding my place in the universe and harmonising myself with the forces of life, death and creativity.
MM: What is the sweetest memory of your life?
SR: When my son Arvin came to this world almost two years ago.
MM: What is the bitterest memory of your life?
SR: Much like most exiled Iranians, leaving my country is my most bitter memory which led to separating from my family for 8 long years before being re-united.
MM: What would be a big dream-come-true for you?
SR: To see a free, independent and democratic Iran. Also to see my books in print in Iran without it having been poisoned by censorship.
MM: What was the best reaction to your work?
SR: I have always received a very warm welcome from the people for whom I have read my poetry. It has all been heart warming and encouraging
MM: Where is your favourite place to perform and why?
SR: Anywhere that people understand and appreciate your work is a good place to perform. Now days, technology allows you to communicate with thousands of people at any given time with very little effort. I have a website that has hundreds of visitors every month from different parts of the world. Almost half of the visitors of my website are from Iran.
It is fantastic to be able to reach your audience from the comfort of your home. Especially as my work is not published in Iran, it is heart warming to know that I can reach my people in this way.
MM: Desert Island, three things, what do you take?
SR: My facial sun block, bottle of evian and a writing pad and pen.