as clueless as ever

the genius of homay

A translation of a poem by Yaghoubi, with homage to Parvaz Homay and his reciatations. The role of the artist in society and a personal update.

Alborz Mirzaie

21 December 2021 · 6 MIN READ

کدخدایی که گمان کرده خدای ده ماست

The alderman who thinks he is the god of our village

کدخدا نیست، خدا نیست، بلای ده ماست

He is no alderman, nor a God, but a curse to our village

روزگاریست به گوش همه خواند که خداست

It has been some days since he told everyone that he is god

خانه اش در ده ما نیست، جدای ده ماست

His house is not even in our village, it's away from our village

بینوا بی خبر از حال و هوای ده ماست

Poor thing, having no news about the well-being and state of our village

کدخدا دیر زمانیست که دیوانه شده ست

It has not been late since the alderman went mad

از زمانی که به دیدار خدا رفته و در خانه شده ست

Ever since he went to visit God and stayed at his house

خانه را دیده، خدا را نه؛ ولی با همه بیگانه شده ست

He saw the house of god, but no God; but now from everyone, stranded he is

غافل از آن که خدا در همه جای ده ماست

Unaware that God is everywhere in our village

بینوا بی خبر از حال و هوای ده ماست

Poor thing, having no news about the well-being and state of our village

محمدرضا یعقوبی ― Mohammad Reza Yaghoubi

Homay's recitation of Yaghoubi's poem would (often) accompany me on my walks to Mohalinyane Health Center. Back then I would wonder what state Yaghoubi's village was in.

Why is this Homay’s genius? Yaghoubi’s poem is beautifully composed but it would have never landed on my ears if not for Homay and his tendency to lend his silky voice to the most needed of messages. How many kleptocrats and empty-suits alike are guiding our institutions today? The alderman would point to God as his source of authority; find those who point to anything other than their own creativity manifest and call out their fraud. And for those who instinctually point, hold their hand, soothe them to where all that is left is their breath. Last August we lost Sir Ken Robinson, a man who was no pacifist in calling out the fraud of our educational institutions, a man who defined creativity as the process of having original ideas that have value; his being revolved around nurturing the innate genius of children and preventing the damage done in today's schools. Heading into the new year with one less adult in the room gives me chills.

It would be surprising to think this poem has little relation to the national origins of the poet and reciter, being the Islamic Republic of Iran and their ideas on productive and humane governance; please be wary of those nation-states who have to remind you they are a republic.

Homay so eloquently presents his damning critique yet simultaneously protects himself from an insurgent regime that isn’t shy to play God and execute. His critique is as relevant as the number of those who will hear him out; and Homay's protection is as strong as the IRR's doubt in pursuit of his silencing: Homay's art binds the IRR's authority (reducing it to a cave dwelling snake not daring to venture too brazenly) while also allowing for a safe, and no less graceful, means of protest. This is appearance at its best. Increasingly, in our world packed full of transactions stacking transactions, appearance has been used to fool you to act in accordance to another's will; the world I wish to live in, a world rich and ripe of relations, appearance is second-order from competence and necessarily respected as such. This year we also lost Mohammad Reza Shajarian, a man no stranger to the artist's responsibilities in the face of tyranny; in fact, many argue it was he who set, and remains, the standard. Calling a spade a spade, Shajarian's bravery and loyalty to the people would have likely made him Yaghoubi's ideal leader. The majority of my heroes I will never meet, maybe for the better.

Interesting parallels found in the nuances of translation: بینوا, bi-nava, does not exclusively refer to poor thing; the bi, a prefix meaning without, whereas nava means sound, voice but also descendants (most often grandchildren). I enjoy reading it this way: the set of those who choose to lead a community, a people, not of their own, has poor fitness, evolutionarily speaking. This is nothing new as many examples of excessively authoritarian rulers collapsing can be found in history; better yet, name the fauxlanthropists of today, those deaf to the cries of our planet's neighborhoods, and note whether their lack of competence is exposed in the coming future. Note that the poor alderman could also be the one deaf to the music of his time.

What an ugly game translation is; far too much me and too little the source's spirit. The translator's job is a tragic one; many thanks to Farhad for the help. I declined the admissions offer from NTU. Decisions like these long me to set a bookmark in this time-series; so for when I'm 80 and aimless, I could come back here and fork to a life that, what seems from where I stand, a truly serendipitous path.

It would be wrong of me to not share another of Homay’s recitations, that of a poem by نجمه زارع Najmeh Zare. As for the translation of the title, let word reach the farthest corners of the world, I hope to find a heaven where Najmeh will be waiting, no less to salute my efforts. I take it we have many more years of chaos to come; struggle well.

خبر به دورترین نقطه ی جهان برسد

Let word reach the farthest corners of the world

نخواست او به من خسته بی گمان برسد

That he did not want to arrive to me in fatigue

شکنجه بیشتر از این؟ که پیش چشم خودت

Is there a torture worse than this? that with your own eyes

کسی که سهم تو باشد، به دیگران برسد

Someone who belongs to you, goes with someone else.

چه می کنی؟ اگر او را که خواستی یک عمر

What will you do? if the one you wished for all your life

به راحتی کسی از راه ناگهان برسد...

With ease, suddenly reaches you

رها کنی برود از دلت جدا باشد

You let him go, from your heart separated

به آنکه دوست ترش داشته، به آن برسد

In turn he can arrive to the one who he loves more

رها کنی بروند و دو تا پرنده شوند

You let them go and two birds they become

خبر به دورترین نقطه جهان برسد

Let word reach the farthest corners of the world

گلایه ای نکنی، بغض خویش را بخوری

No complaints, woes, swallow your sorrow

که هق هقِ تو مبادا به گوششان برسد

So your cries do not reach their ears

خدا کند که نه...! نفرین نمی کنم... نکند

Let God… no...! I won’t curse them… Don't let

به او -که عاشق او بوده ام- زیان برسد

him, the one I love, be hurt

خدا کند فقط این عشق از سرم برود

Let God only let this love leave from my head

خدا کند که فقط زود آن زمان برسد

Let God only let that day come sooner

نجمه زارعی ― Najmeh Zare