“Javanan” Introduced Sepideh Kashani/Literature Shall Separate from Politics

Ms. Sepideh Kashani started poetry with Javanan(1) magazine. She participated in our meetings and asked me to revise her poetry. There were many others.

Mehr News Agency- Culture Group: Alireza Tabayi, poet, song writer, journalist and veteran critic, born in December 5, 1944 lives in Shiraz. He was in charge of poetry and literary sections of “Javanan Emruz” magazine for 14 years (till 1984) with over 400 thousand circulation; this magazine has introduced many renowned poets for the first time. Tabayi has published 6 collections with the titles: “Autumn Buds”, 1965 Piruz Publication in Tehran, “From the depth of the night”, 1971 Bamdad Publication in Tehran, “Suns on the other side of the wall”, 1981 Tosan Publication in Tehran, “I might blame my glasses”2006, Ayene Jonub Tehran Publication (Book of the year in the second celebration of journalists’ poetry), “Mother Iran”, 2012 Shadan Publication in Tehran and “Thunder but More Sudden”, 2013 Avaye Kelar Publication in Tehran. We discuss journalistic activities in the past and its difference now with this veteran literary journalist:

I believe you had tied poetry with your activities in press from the beginning. When did you start working in press?

My nexus with press precedes my official work; I was interested in journalism since I was in fourth or fifth grade and after seventh grade I published wall papers and started working with press. Two, three years later I won the first place in literature and journalism in Iran throughout all existing institutes. I lived in Shiraz then and since 1958 I started my serious work in press and my first poetry was published in “Sepid” magazine whose editor in chief was late Abolghasem.

How old were you?
I was only 14 years old. Then I started working with other magazines like “Tehran Mosavar” in which the poetry pages were managed by Ms. Simin Behbahani. During 1960 and 1961 I used to publish one poetry every week in magazines like “Omid Iran”(2) , “Majaleye Zanan”(3) , “Taraghi”(4) , “Asiayeh Javan”(5) and in 1963 I made a collection of my work in a book titled “Javanehaye Payiz”(6) which was published in 1965 by Piruz Publication in Tehran. In 1976, when I was in last year of high school when I wrote a piece of poetry for Viet Nam which turned into an interesting story; It was in the peak of war among USA and Viet Nam and the atmosphere was inflamed beginning from brutal air strikes to the oppression of Vietconges. I was young and couldn’t stay away, I sent my poetry to Ferdowsi Magazine and they printed it on the back cover which is page two, in full page. At the time, Ferdowsi was a magazine for intellectuals and it attracted much attention.

Where there any reflection abroad?
Yes. Some national authorities and some abroad were very sensitive; 156 Human Rights Defenders and institutions from all over the world congratulated the magazine. The next year I wrote a piece of poetry titled “An Epic for Sub-Saharan Africa” which was printed in the first page of Ferdowsi. Since the magazine entertained elite and students and intellectuals, the poetry was noticed. Then I moved to Tehran to continue my education and started working with Javanan magazine since 1968. Prior to that I met the editor in chief and had printed couple of poetries in the magazine. The magazine would print the poetry along with a picture, which was an interesting idea; however applied only to famous poets such as “Winter” by Akhavan. The chief editor of Javanan offered me a job and I accepted hesitantly; I thought I might be able to contribute to the development of younger poets. Since 1968 I was in charge of art and literature pages in the magazine for 14 years until 3 years after the revolution around 1983. Fortunately, these pages were a platform for the development of many good contemporary poets of Iran. Such as Hossein Monzavi, Mohammad Ali Bahmani, Emran Salahi, Sepideh Kashani, Shivan Foumani and Seyyed Hassan Hosseni. The poetries needed revision in weight or content and they would agree. I used to work with other magazines such as “Sokhan”, and “Negin” and “FarhangeZendegi” and “Farhand and Honar” and “Roudaki”.

What are the differences in literary activities between now and then that you can mention? What do you remember?

What was in place in the past and its absence now can be perceived as a harm is that back them the poetry was not selected from political perspective and there were no borders of the poet is one of ours or not. Poets like me and Nosrat Rahmani and Fereydun Moshiri who were in charge of literary pages usually would consider the value and I can say that the pages of press were full of valuable poetry. Obviously, having a friend in the magazine would help to have the poetry published but it was nothing like what we have currently where concrete borders exist separating right from left wing and domestic from foreigner; these stratifications have nothing to do with literature and culture and have damaged such pages. Moreover, after 1978, poets and artists were less favored since policy makers would consider them as enemies for the sole reason that they had written poetry before revolution while these works had no contradiction with revolution and the system; however, this attitude disappointed them and opened the field for others whose talent was not compatible and didn’t have sufficient competence on poetry. I can give an example; there are those who have published books but know nothing about the weight in poetry and yet they talk about history of literature and weight. This is how the field was taken over by those who are less competent and it harmed poetry. Now, the attitudes are specific, calculated and politicized but I believe literature and culture should not be mixed with politics. There are some considerations and limits in every society but poetry shall not be refrained in a frame.

It is interesting that you would say that. It seems, back then, there were clear and bold borders. Muslims had their own magazines, the lefties and others. Wasn’t it the case?

I mean the general publications. Such as “Javanan”, “Etelaat Haftegi”, “Roshanfekr”, “Tehran Mosavar”, “Sepid o Siah”, otherwise there were publications with special intellectual trends. Such as “Maktab-e Eslam” which was printed by Ayatollah Makarem Shirazi and his colleagues in Qom which had a special approach to literature and naturally the poetry published in it had to be compatible to the school of thought it followed. I refer to publications for the people where in the past we didn’t have such an attitude that one poet is from the left wing or Islamist then we should publish his/her poems. The nature of the poetry was important. For instance, some like Ms. Sepideh Kashani started with Javanan and participated in all our meetings and in many occasions she asked me to revise her poetry. There were many others such as Nasrollah Mardani.

Another issue that comes to mind is that for instance as a young poet when your work was printed in literary magazines on the cover of back you would be excited. Do you believe that it is the same with young poets now?

I would like to go a bit further. We have a hadith where God says: I’m a treasure to be known! It means that God wanted to be known let alone human beings and artists; they intent to be known to brag that I’ve painted this painting or made this sculpture or I’ve written this poetry. This is to conclude that grandstanding is in the nature of the artists and panache shall be them. Back then as far as I can remember not only young poets but also famous ones such as Ms. Farokhzad or Mr. Shamloo or Mr. Nader Pour would appreciate to have their picture or poems printed in credible magazines. The feeling is always there and I believe even now everyone likes to have his/her poetry published.

Let’s go back to your press activities. How long have you been active in this field?

54 years.

Anyone with such a long history has good and bad memories. It is better if you tell us some of those you haven’t shared!

When I saw my poem published alongside with those of famous poets I was really excited. Then I started officially working with press when two or three incidents happened; once in Javanan we published a couplet and as far as I can remember part of the poem was: Your lips are the red rose of life. This publication dates back to 1975 during the trial of Khossro Golsorkhi(7) and Keramatollah Daneshian and people were still very sensitive with regards to their execution. The magazine was immediately banned.

By the command of SAVAK ?

Yes. Of course, it wasn’t explicit but they had their auditors and would review the poems and issue relevant commands. In our case they said that what was meant by “red rose” was Khossro Golsorkhi.

What the poet famous?

No. He was an ordinary person. I think he had sent it from the north of the country. The other event that I remember is my last day of work in Javanan magazine. I was editor in chief of the literary section. I went to the office and figured that the editor in chief is not there and there is a new guy. We spoke and I asked a question and realized that he’s really off track. We argued about a word in poetry and he referenced it to a book and I agreed. I went home and I reviewed my book on history and called him to explain. In the middle of the conversation he hung up. I thought it was a mistake and called again but the secretary said that he’s busy and doesn’t have time to talk. I told the secretary to deliver my message that I can’t continue cooperation with Javanan and it is better to offer the job to a young person. At that time the magazine had a circulation of 480 thousand and special editions would be issued for Nowruz(9) and 13 Bedar(10) and the circulation would reach 500 thousand. Unfortunately after that the circulation dropped to less than 5000.

Considering your experience what do you think is the duty of the press?

Enlightenment and awareness rising are main duties of the press. Naturally, working with press is like walking on a double edged sword. In case we walk unilaterally we will witness what is happening now; meaning distrust of people towards media. Unfortunately, the number of those who read and watch foreign media has increased. We should share issues honestly. There are considerations in every system but it shall not lead to distrust. Fortunately, now our media is equipped with technology but still we need awareness; I mean those in charge to steer media shall have full competence. The second issue is inclusion. Our approach should not be limited to one dimension.

1 Youth
2 Hope of Iran
3 Women’s Magazine
4 Development
5 Young Asia
6 Autumn Buds
7 Golshorkh means red rose.
8 The intelligence service during the rule of the King in Iran.
9 Iranian new year.
10 Last day of Nowruz Holidays.

Natalie Haghverdian

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