University of Arkansas Press Book Wins Lois Roth Persian Translation Prize

Sin: Selected Poems of Forugh Farrokhzad wins translation prize

Monday, June 14, 2010
Sholeh Wolpe

Sholeh Wolpe

FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. – The American Institute of Iranian Studies recently announced the winner of the ninth annual Lois Roth Persian Translation Prize — Sin: The Selected Poems of Forugh Farrokhzad, translated by Sholeh Wolpe and published by the University of Arkansas Press in 2007 and now available in paperback ($16.95). The award, as well as a cash prize, was given out at the International Society of Iranian Studies’ conference in Santa Monica, Calif.

The Roth Prize is given in recognition of demonstrated excellence in translating Persian literature into English, and is funded by a contribution from the Lois Roth Endowment to the American Institute of Iranian Studies. The prize is awarded in memory of Lois Roth, whose interest in and affection for Iran and Iranian culture dates back to the late 1960s when she lived and worked in Iran as assistant and then deputy cultural attaché in the U.S. Information Agency and as director of the Iran America Society.

In its remarks about the book the jury for the award said: “Some great poets never find their perfect match in a translator who can render them as an essential poet in a new language. … Rarely do we encounter a contemporary Persian poet with the rich and multiple translation history that Forugh Farrokhzad has enjoyed. Her best poems place her squarely within the pantheon of the foremost poets of world literature writing in the twentieth century. Now, in Sholeh Wolpe's recent selection of Farrokhzad's poems, Sin, we find English versions fully in tune with the vibrant idioms of contemporary American poetry. An outstanding translation often creates the possibility for a fresh encounter with an oft-read original text. In Wolpe’s fresh and vital translation, a musical and compelling English version that draws the reader along and captures a sense of the exquisitely balanced pacing of Farrokhzad’s language, and the immediacy and authenticity of her voice, the members of the Lois Roth jury found themselves experiencing Forugh's Persian poems with new eyes. Wolpe's Sin is a convincing poetic translation, one that should help Farrokhzad claim her rightful place in the international canon of poetry.”

Farrokhzad was the most significant female Iranian poet of the 20th century, as revolutionary as Russia’s Anna Akhmatova and America’s Sylvia Plath. She wrote with a sensuality and burgeoning political consciousness that pressed against the boundaries of what could be expressed by a woman in 1950s and 1960s Iran. She died in a car accident in France at the age of 32.

Sholeh Wolpe is the author of two poetry collections, The Scar Saloon and Roof Tops of Tehran. In her Foreword to Sin the noted American poet Alicia Ostriker, a two-time National Book Award finalist, writes that “this book will be treasured by readers who crave not a clash of cultures but a connection.” In its review of Sin when the book was first published American Poet said, “These lucid translations capture the absolute ferocity and passion that have made Forugh Farrokhzad so beloved and so infamous.”

The book is available at the University of Arkansas bookstore and from the University of Arkansas Press (1-800-626-0090; www.uapress.com).

Keywords: University Press

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