Simin Behbahani was one of Iran’s most celebrated contemporary poets and activists, born to a literary family. She was known for her reinvention of the ghazal, a classical Persian poetic form, to explore contemporary themes. In ghazals such as “Old Eve,” about the abiding desire of a woman of eighty, for example, she inverted tradition by making men, not women, the objects of love. Called “the lioness of Iran,” Behbahani wrote outspoken poems about women’s issues, war, peace, revolution, poverty and justice under the shadow of Iranian censorship. She published the first of her hundreds of poems at fourteen and wrote prolifically for her whole life. Setar-e shekasteh (The Broken Sitar), her first verse collection, was published in 1951. Behbahani’s work, collected in 19 volumes, was nominated twice for the Nobel Prize in literature, and she was awarded the Simone de Beauvoir Prize for Women’s Freedom in 2009, and the Janus Pannonius Poetry Prize in 2013.

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