What role can poetry play in a society faced with historical trauma? This paper introduces the poetry and thought of Mohammad Mokhtari (1942-1998) in consideration of how they address such a question. Mokhtari wrote against what he saw as his century’s greatest traumas—failed revolutions, mass incarceration, censorship, authoritarianism, and anti-humanist rule. Though his writing most directly relates to the Iranian national context, Mokhtari also draws direct parallels between Iran’s historical experience and that of Europe, especially in the first half of the twentieth century. In fact, Mokhtari’s translations of European poets like Paul Celan and Marina Tsvetaeva suggest how the Iranian poet viewed his own aesthetic work as conversant with other poets writing in the wake of their own national traumas. As such, this paper will argue, Mokhtari’s writing offers significant insights into the aesthetic and political questions that continue to shape our understanding of national and world literatures today.
Samad Alavi is assistant professor in Near Eastern Languages and Civilization at the University of Washington. He works primarily on Persian and Iranian literary and intellectual cultures with a focus on modern poetry.
Thursday, April 12 at 4:00 pm
Olin Hall, 129
920 E Isaacs, Walla Walla, WA