ESSAYS & REVIEWS

Attar, the Sufi Poet and Master of Rumi”    World Literature Today

“Can Literature Save the World? On Translating Attar’s The Conference of the Birds”  Words Without Borders 

“The Salesman” Review of Asghar Farhadi’s Oscar winning movie — Guernica

“Unveiling of Self” — Prairie Schooner: Women and the Global Imagination

Translating Walt Whitman — Best American Poetry

Seven New Generation African Poets– Best American Poetry

Injuring Film or Opera With Bad Subtitles — Best American Poetry

Flowers: A Marriage of Poetry and Music in Iran — Best American Poetry

The Shift Circle — Best American Poetry

The Dwelling of the Damned– Best American Poetry

Simorgh, Thirty Birds: On Translating Farid ud-Din Attar — PEN America

Poetry Can’t Be Arrested  — Institute for Policy Studies

I Have Sinned  — Best American Poetry

Word to World  –Best American Poetry

The Transformative Power of Literature  –Best American Poetry

Review of Wisteria–Poems from the Swamp Country by kwame Dawes —Sable (U.K.)

Review of  Without an Alphabet, Without a Face, by Saadi Youseef, stranslated by KhEaled Mattawa   –The Daily Star Lebanon 

Review of The Good Daughter by Jazmin Darznik  – Los Angeles Review of Books

 

SHAME

SHAME

A Play By Sholeh Wolpé

A  tragicomedy about secrets, and the “cost” of happiness

2017  Centenary Stage, NJ   Women Playwright Series — 2017 selection

2016   Ashland New Plays Festival, finalist

2016   Eugene O’Niell National Playwrights Conference, semifinalist

If you are interested in producing this play at your theater, please contact: shame.aplay@gmail.com

 

shameinvitation

Poster for the 2015 staged reading in NYC

The greatest number of human rights violations worldwide has been and are committed against women and girls. “Honor” and “shame” play a major part in many of these atrocities. Sholeh herself comes from a culture affected by the central question posed in “Shame”: what is the cost of happiness and personal freedom? And are we willing to pay it if we are able to do so?

The stories in SHAME are based on true events. There is poetry in the tragedy of these stories, stories that Sholeh felt compelled to tell in the format of one of the most powerful art forms on earth: the stage, where “imitations of life” is possible and can be explored with the same intensity as poetry.

 

Staged Readings of SHAME:

 

Women Playwrights Series at Centenary Stage,  New Jersey,  April 12, 2017 — Staged reading of SHAME, by Sholeh Wolpé, featuring: Jessica Angleskhan, Gamze Ceylan, Peter Evangelista, Nora Armani, Matthew Lawler, and Marianne Murray. Directed by Mikaela Kafka, produced by Catherine Rust.

— New Ohio Theater, New York City, March 17, 2015– Staged reading of SHAME by Sholeh Wolpé, featuring: Rasha Zamamiri, Kathryn Kates, Constance Zaytoun, Eric T Miller, and Sondra Ward. Directed by Caryn West, produced by Marc Weitz.

 

— The Marilyn Monroe Theater at The Lee Strasberg Theater and Film Institute, West Hollywood, January 70, 2013–Staged reading of SHAME by Sholeh Wolpé    Featuring:  Necar Zadegan   (Bengal Tiger in Baghdad Zoo, Girlfriends’ Guide to Divorce, Extant, Rake, 24, The Event); Nicholas Guilak (Saving Jessica Lynch, Homeland Security, Retiribution, Of Gods and Kings); Shila Vosough  Ommi (The First Family. Susan Miller, Liberation, Love Francesca, Starwatch); Glenn Davis   (Bengal Tiger in Baghdad Zoo, 24, The Unit); and Caryn West (Grey’s Anatomy, Vanya&Sonia&Masha&Spike at New York’s Harford Theater.) Directed by : Caryn West

 

Open Fist Theater, Los Angeles, October 24, 2007– Staged reading of SHAME by Sholeh Wolpé, featuring: Navid Negahban (American Sniper, Homeland, 24, Stoning Soraya), Naz Deravian (Brothes & Sisters, The Unit, Weeds, Daybreak), Sarah Ripard (Bombay Dream on Broadway), Drew Wicks (Mad Men, What About Brian, Passions, Scrubs), Karah Gita Michaels. Directed by Navid Negahban

 

SELECTED TRANSLATIONS

Valley of Love, from The Conference of the Birds by Farid-ud-din Attar — PEN America and National Translation Month

In Darkness by Forugh Farrokhzad — Modern Poetry in Translation

Reborn by Forugh Farrokhzad — World Literature Today

Connection by Forugh Farrokhzad  –Words Without Borders

Sin by Forugh Farrokhzad  –Sentinel Literary Quarterly

In Night’s Cold Streets  by Forugh Farrokhzad  –Verse Daily

On Loving by Forugh Farrokhzad –Love and Pomegranates

I See the Sea  by Shams Langroodi  –qarrtesilluni

My Hands Tremble Yet Again by Sheida Mohammadi  –qarrtesilluni

Blood’s Voice by Mohsen Emadi –qarrtesilluni

Three poems by Forugh Farrokhzad plus That Desire Called Sin by Sholeh Wolpe  — Colony (Ireland),  click here for the Text of the poem

MY BROTHER AT THE CANADIAN BORDER

                                                    for Omid

 On their way to Canada in a red Mazda, my brother and his friend, PhDs and little sense, stopped at the border and the guard leaned forward, asked: Where you boys heading? My brother, WELCOME TO CANADA poster in his eyes replied: Mexico. The guard blinked, stepped back then forward, said: Sir, this is the Canadian border. My brother turned to his friend, grabbed the map from his hands, slammed it on his shaved head. You stupid idiot, he yelled, you’ve been holding the map upside down.

In the interrogation room full of metal desks and chairs with wheels that squeaked and florescent light humming, bombarded with questions, and finally: Race?

Stymied, my brother confessed: I really don’t know, my parents never said, and the woman behind the desk widened her blue eyes to take in my brother’s olive skin, hazel eyes, the blonde fur that covered his arms and legs. Disappearing behind a plastic partition, she returned with a dusty book, thick as War and Peace, said: This will tell us your race. Where was your father born? She asked, putting on her horn-rimmed glasses. Persia, he said. Do you mean I-ran?

I ran, you ran, we all ran, he smiled. Where’s your mother from? Voice cold as a gun. Russia, he replied. She put one finger on a word above a chart in the book, the other on a word at the bottom of the page, brought them together looking like a mad mathematician bent on solving the crimes of zero times zero divided by one. Her fingers stopped on a word. Declared: You are white.

My brother stumbled back, a hand on his chest, eyes wide, mouth in an O as in O my God! All these years and I did not know. Then to the room, to the woman and the guards: I am white I can go anywhere   Do anything   I can go to Canada and pretend it’s Mexico   At last, I am white and you have no reason to keep me here.

                    — Sholeh Wolpé (From The Scar Saloon)

EACH DAY

she wakes up and something’s changed.
The parrot in the cage has stopped speaking English.
The line of ants has skipped the syrup.
The lawn has changed its mind
and is now leaning left.

The radio has gone opera, and the bananas
have softened for the strawberries.
The air, sabotaged by light, now courses
from the china cabinet towards the knife
drawer, and the skylights leaks leaves.

The crows have dipped their tails in white paint,
the fat pygmy goat is in love with a coyote,
and love has become so red, the trees have bent
their leafy heads, coughing blood.

       –Sholeh Wolpé (from Keeping Time with Blue Hyacinths)

THE HOUSE ON STILT LEGS

I have just arrived, and the air is wet.
The breeze lifts up my skirt
to have a look.

The neighbors file in, bring
baked plantains, chickpea roti,
goat curry so spicy my eyes melt.

They finger my curls, touch
my long black eyelashes.
Laugh.

In the street, boys hiss
at my back with lips, tongue,
and breath. Young men

emerge skinny and dark,
from among tall sugar cane
fields, machetes in hand.

Just for you, they say, and pull out
long, clean, fat stalks, bleeding
sugar from the cut.

The four-leaf clover holes that line
the edges below my bedroom ceiling
are portholes to the stars.

Fireflies come in with the breeze,
turn my mosquito net into a green-
flashing southern sky. I tell them

about Tehran’s dusty streets and high
walls, gardens where every tree steals
innocence from eyes, where every rose

offers her thorns to stitch mouths,
where crows blacken the sky snitching
on the comings and goings of the moon.

I sketch in the air the bell jar
in which I lived and almost died,
show them the roof of my mouth

where a secret grows like moss, the inside
of my belly button where the cord to my
homeland’s womb remains uncut.

–Sholeh Wolpé (from Keeping Time with Blue Hyacinths)

THE OUTSIDER

I know what it’s like to be an outsider, a kharejee.

I know how English sounds
when every word is only music.

I know how it feels not
to be an American, an English, a French.
Call them
Amrikayee, Ingleesee, Faransavi,
see them
see me as alien, immigrant, Iranee.

But I’ve been here so long.
they may call me American,
with an American husband
and American children…

But mark this— I do not belong anywhere.
I have an accent in every language I speak.

                            —Sholeh Wolpé   (from Rooftops of Tehran)

 

Ask Her Any Question and She Will Answer Like Glass

Or maybe it isn’t that simple.

At first she wants it. Wants it
so hard she throws away everything.
Wakes up alone inside
a skin tattooed by living.

Now she stands by a black river.
She will wash her sex in this ink,
let the fish eat her desire.

This is how she gives her soul a bath.
It’s better than time travel to set things right.

                              –Sholeh Wolpé (From: Keeping Time With Blue Hyacinths )

 

POEMS / FICTION / NON-FICTION

RED in Konya — The Punch Magazine

Man Without Fear — Guernica

Dear America — Terrain

Pickles and Donuts — Ofi Press

I Am Neda — PBS Frontline

The Outsider— This Website

How Hard Is It To Write a Love Song — Terrain–A Journal of the Built, and Natural Environment

See Them Coming —  Split This Rock

The Prince — Guernica – A Magazine of Art and Politics

My Brother At the Canadian Border — This Website

Jerusalem, August 10, 2001 –Voices Compassionate Education

The Painted Sun, Yellow to Blue, and The Writers —Levure Littéraire

The House on Stilt Legs — This Website

Prisoner in a Hole  — The Poetry Foundation

It’s A Man’s World To the End of the End –Voices Compassionate Education

Ask Her Any Question and She Will Answer Like Glass –This Website

I Belong Nowhere –Voices Compassionate Education

The Green of Iran  — The Rumpus

If I Make it to 80   —Moonday poetry (text)  or  — Blue’s Cruzio Cafe (Animation)

Diminishing Silence –Connotation Press

Walking in the Wood  –Hill Tromper

I Never Seen Such Days As This  — The Poetry Foundation