“The voice of Nilofar Shidmehr’s poetry moves restlessly between two imagined lives: one, a life rooted in the past and in Iran, a life of strict gendered expectations but also of continuity and familiarity; the other, a life in Canada, relatively uncompromised by gender segregation, but yet still troubled by the pain of exile and others’ prejudice. These poems speak plainly of mothers, of daughters, of lovers, but always beneath each simple story is the pulse of an intelligent, sensuous desire. These poems are feminist, moist, fragrant! Each word bursts, ripe in the mouth, like pomegranate.”
~Sonnet Sonnet L’Abbé (Canadian Poet and Critic, Winner of Bronwen Wallace Memorial Award, 2000)
“In this stirring collection Between Lives, Shidmehr’s direct voice and unflinching gaze put her among such great activist poets as
artin Espada, Dionne Brand, and Pablo Neruda. With a clear gaze and arresting imagery. Shidmehr brings to light the violence and injustice of women’s lives in Iran and in the diaspora. Fully wrought and deeply personal, this is a necessary book by an accomplished writer.
~Elizabeth Bachinsky, nominee for Governor General’s Award for English-language poetry.
These poems are the untold stories of contemporary Persian women’s lives, lives portrayed with intimacy and lyricism, despite their subjugation. These are poetic meditations that only a poet simultaneously intimate with a place, and exiled from it, can offer. In this book, men and women are like ‘fire and cotton,’ and must be kept apart; they are ‘flammable with the slightest spark.’ Nilofer Shidmehr’s poems burn with a fierce, haunting fire.
~Rachel Rose, winner Audre Lorde Award for Lesbian Poetry
Shirin and Salt Man
Shirin and Salt Man is a novella in verse, which tells the story of a young modern day Iranian woman, Shirin. She is an ordinary girl from Kermanshah born before the Islamic Revolution, who imagines herself to be an incarnation of princess Shirin, depicted in the ancient Persian classic Shirin and Khosro. At first she tries to shape her life to that of the myth, but later decides to change her destiny and become the author of her own story. She leaves her husband and runs away with the Salt Man, a 1700 year old mummy on display at the Iranian National Museum in Tehran.
The poems form a compelling narrative of the life of a contemporary Iranian woman whose voice has been muted by Khosro, her fundamentalist and traditional husband. In an environment where the dominance of men is written in stone and where only men have the authority for fashioning and telling stories, Shirin reclaims a place for herself as a lover and teller of stories. She re-enters life through cracks of narrative to invent Shirin anew, one whose life-path radically diverges from that of her namesake, Shirin of Nezami’s story. She digs out Farhad, the mythical lover of princess Shirin, who has now become the Salt Man, from under the dust and stones of history and she gives him another opportunity to love her. In transforming Salt Man to another Farhad, Shirin creates a new history—one shaped and narrated by a feminine voice.