Abbas Saffari, poet of “Our Story”, dies of COVID-19

January 26, 2021 - 18:50

TEHRAN – Iranian poet and translator Abbas Saffari, the composer of the modern parody “Our Story” about Adam and Eve, died of COVID-19 on Tuesday at a hospital in Long Beach, California. He was 69.

“He was earlier suffering from a lung disease and was later infected with coronavirus, which caused serious damage to his lungs,” his sister Shayesteh told the Persian service of ISNA.

Born in 1951 in the central Iranian city of Yazd, Abbas Saffari had lived in the U.S. since 1979. While still in high school in Iran, he wrote lyrics for several popular singers, including Farhad Mehrad’s classic song “Captured by Night”.

He was the author of “Confluence of Hands and Apples”, “Twilight of Presence” and “Old Camera and Other Poems”.

He translated numerous books into Persian, including “Moon and the Solitude of Lovers” by Izumi Shikibu and Lady Komachi] and “Egyptian Love Poems” by Ezra Pound and Noel Stock.

He was a co-founder and poetry editor of the Iranian literary magazines “Sang” and “Cactus” in exile. He studied sculpture at California State University, Long Beach. He is survived by his wife and two daughters.

His first collection of poems won the Baran Book Prize in Sweden in 1993. He also became the first poet in the diaspora to win the Karnameh Poetry Prize in Iran.

In 2010, his long poem “Our Story” narrating the Adam and Eve story was added to the 9th edition of “Literature: The Human Experience”, a favorite anthology for American students, as one of the subsections in the book’s chapter, “Looking Farther: Forbidden Love”.

In 2011, Saffari showcased a collection of his woodcuts featuring American life during the Great Depression of the 1930s and some artworks on Yazd’s Wind Towers during an exhibition in Tehran.

Some 25 woodcuts featured glimpses of the lives of American people in New York and Chicago streets during the Great Depression under the title of “The Hat that the Wind Blew Away”.

“It was not my intention to depict the poverty of the people in my woodcuts but they reflect the disruptions in society at that time,” he had said at that time.

The woodcuts depict Yazd’s wind towers, which were put on view under the title of “Greeting Breeze”.

“I was born in Yazd and I feel nostalgia for the city whenever I look at the woodcuts but this was not my reason for depicting the wind towers. I selected this subject for their graphic design,” he had explained.

Photo: Poet and translator Abbas Saffari in an undated photo.


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