Originally posted on www.tehranavenue.com
Born in 1899 to a pious family, Alamtaj Qaemmaqami
is better known by her pen name, Zhaleh. Her father was the great
grandson of a notable prime minister and a man of letters. Zhaleh
studied under the maktab system but picked up other books and pen
on her own. Her taste for poetry and literature showed through
early on. At the age of sixteen, due to financial problems, her
family arranged for her marriage to a military-minded, illiterate
man of forty-something. Nothing in her life could prepare her for
this marriage. There was no common ground between husband and
wife. She could hide her feelings in front of her husband, but
poetry served as her vehicle to express them on paper.
His dark face two shining
Like two stars in pitch
His whiskers on my skin
Spikes piercing the soft
With hennaed beard at
How else to say it: A
He is the man and I am
the woman, indeed,
A woman is a wretched
|The marriage did not last
long and resulted in a separation that took Zhaleh away from her
only son, poet and writer Pezhman Bakhtiari, for 27 years. Her
parents died before her separation, and she had little choice but
to return to the family home in the city of Farahan, under
the guardianship of a brother who was given to drinking and
smoking. Some of her collections of poems have survived, but she
burned many during those years. “What would’ve happened,
mother, if I didn’t get married,” she asks rhetorically in
one poem, “was I such a heavy burden, a pile of bones, that
could bend father’s back?”
Late literary critic and
historian Gholamhosein Yusefi writes of her work: “Zhaleh’s
poetic language is alive and animated at the same time that it is
robust, lucid, and masterly” *
What makes Zhaleh’s
poetry unique, however, is its relationship with everyday objects.
During her long years in solitude, she spoke not only to her
mirror, but also to her comb, sewing machine, and her samovar.
“Diamonds are a woman’s best friends,” you may think, but
Zhaleh took her relationship with home appliances to another
level. Here is how she speaks to her coal-burning samovar.
My dearest soul mate
My companion, my samovar.
It seem like you are
In your heart is it the
flame that seers me.
Have you not learned how
to shed tears
From my watery eyes?
You caroler of stories
Come sit next to my bed.
Stay merry and give me
You murmuring samovar of
The Azmayesh billboard in
this picture seems to be appealing to this sense of womanly
romance. There have been other adverts that try to present home
appliances as things desirable. Last year, one billboard declared
a vacuum cleaner “beautiful, powerful, and attractive.” But
the billboard ad here is startling for both its crude design and
the superimposition of a washing machine on a jeweled ring. The
kind of imagination that can make the two kindred is a mystery.
Perhaps Zhaleh could have explained to us the appeal of such an
ad had she lived to see it. She died in 1951.
Roshan, Q. Yusefi: Elmi, Autumn 1369, p. 426
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