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Dying in a Mother Tongue

Dying in a Mother Tongue

This vivid and lyrical collection introduces English-language readers for the first time to one of the most acclaimed Iranian poets of her generation.

Series: CMES Emerging Voices from the Middle East

Center for Middle Eastern Studies, UT Austin
November 2018
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80 pages | 5.5 x 8.5 |

This collection of poetry by the celebrated southern Iranian poet and filmmaker Roja Chamankar (b. 1981) introduces English-speaking readers to one of the most accomplished and well-loved poets of her generation. Chamankar’s work blends surrealism and the southern coastal landscape of the poet’s upbringing with everyday experiences in rapidly urbanizing Tehran. While locating herself in the modernist tradition of Iranian poets like Forugh Farrokhzad and Ahmad Shamlu through form and imagery, Chamankar infuses this tradition with concerns unique to a generation that grew up in post-revolutionary Iran and endured the effects of the Iran-Iraq war. Seascapes, love and eroticism, the disconnection of modern life, and myths and fairytales figure prominently in these vivid, lyrical poems.

In the rich miniature worlds of Chamankar’s poetry, readers become privy to a range of experiences, from desire and pain to rage and humor. Sometimes abstract, other times surreal—Chamankar’s unique poetic voice, like the sea she returns to again and again, combines and sweeps these experiences to shore with assurance, strength, and beauty.


Austin, Texas

Chamankar has published nine volumes of poetry in Persian, cowritten three books for children, and translated a collection of poems by Henri Meschonic from French into Persian. Her works have been translated into half a dozen languages, and she has won a number of national and international awards for her poetry, including the prestigious Nikos Gatsos Prize.

Austin, Texas

Atwood is an assistant professor in the Department of Middle Eastern Studies at the University of Texas at Austin. He is the author of Reform Cinema in Iran: Film and Political Change in the Islamic Republic.


“There is a call in the culture of poetry at this contemporary moment for poetry that identifies the margin, names the margin, and works through our cultural ambivalence to margins. Dying in a Mother Tongue points at one way to do this—not by the all too common trope of boundless suffering but rather its obverse—a self which sees the limits of its suffering, the borders, political and emotional which mark it, and turns towards it.”
Michigan Quarterly Review

“The richness of Roja Chamankar's poetry lies in its contractions: familiar domestic scenes are cut with violent surrealism; love veers between tender and destructive; nature's enduring beauty clashes with urban war wounds and mythology's optimism gives way to modern disillusionment...The text pulls me in by constructing intimate scenes in a cramped urban apartment only to push me away with an unfamiliar place name or a surprising usage of my own language. This constant push and pull between closeness and distance is a hallmark of good translation.”
Kenyon Review

“With darkly modern reflections upon timeless romantic subjects, Roja Chamankar's poems have long warranted reading outside of her Persian tradition. At last this contemporary voice from Iran gets introduced to English readers in translations worthy of her verse.”
Roger Sedarat, Associate Professor, MFA Program in Literary Translation, Queens College, City University of New York


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This book may also be available on the following library platforms; check with your local library:
3M Cloud Library/bibliotheca