Janin Cycle

The Fetus of the Dream

Dream fetuses.
And in the fetus dream,
like a growing amplified silence—
like ivy around nothing:

I dreamed last night.
I dreamed of wet ivy—
wet like water
and rapidly growing—
water that smells like old wine
in the deepest treasure beneath the earth,
where the spider danced the figure of its intelligence in the air.
I don’t know if I’m drunk or crazy.
In my head, he calls perpetually:

“Oh no, son!
We haven’t reached the garden.
We sank in shit.”

My wounded soul talks like this.
You don’t know what my unwounded soul would say.
This soul rises on the farthest bank of the sky
in the early evening.

Now that I write this,
it is sunset.
On the white expanse of the page
the lines dissolve in grey.
On the flying shadow of my hand
the sun descends.
I will dream—
dream of wet ivy everywhere.


The Fetus of the Text

Breathing on the window
between a frozen without and a hot within.
The glass does not permit light to pass with this breath
It colors with this breath.
Have you seen white days? The sun no longer gives light. It splashes white.
Just as white,
the window turns into a page for writing a name
for writing with fingertips on this fire within.

You have written something between without and within.
On the unseen glass a name is seen.
You have written something that can be read from without and within.
From without it reads backwards.
What happens when reading a text written on breath?
Little by little, breaths go away and take your text.
Ambiguity goes away and the text is lost in lucidity.


The Fetus of the Marginalia

I don’t inscribe marginalia
with my body
on your soul.



جنین خواب

خوابْ جنینْ می‌دید
و در جنینْ خوابْ همچون
سکونِ مشدّدِ رویایی بود همچون
پیچکی دورِ هیچ :

-‌ خوابْ دی‌شب دیدم
خوابِ یک پیچکِ خیس تر
مثلِ آب
و بسیار رویان
که بوی شراب کهنه می‌داد
در دنج‌ترین گنجِ زیرِ زمین
آنجا که عنکبوت در هوا نقشِ نبوغِ خویش را رقصیده بود .
سرم به سنگ خورده یا مستم
که در سرم یکی مدام صدا می‌زند :
« وای ! نه ! پسرم ،
ما به باغ نرسیدیم
ما به گه فرو رفتیم … »

و حالا که این را نوشتم
غروب بود و
خطوط در خاکستری تار می‌شدند
و بر پهنه‌ی سفید کاغذ
و سایه‌ی پرنده‌ی دستم
شب می‌شد
و من خواب خواهم دید
خوابِ یک پیچکِ خیسِ در‌همه‌جایی .


جنين متن

ها و ها كردن‌هايِ رويِ شيشه‌ها
ميانِ درونِ گر گرفته و بيرونِ يخ‌زده
شيشه ديگر گذرگاهِ نور نيست با اين ها
با اين ها رنگ مي‌گيرد
روز هاي سفيد را ديده‌اي ، انگار آفتاب نور نمي‌دهد ديگر ، سفيد مي‌پاشد
– همان قدر سفيد
صفحه‌اي مي‌شود براي نوشتنِ اسمي
با نوكِ انگشت
بر اين ها، آتشِ درون، نوشتن :

تو در ميانِ درون و بيرون نوشته‌اي.
شيشه، چون نامرئي است، مي‌شود جايي كه نامي را روي نامرئي مرئي كني
و نامرئي ‌ها هميشه با جاودان ‌ها هم‌پايه‌اند.
چيزي نوشته‌اي که هم از درون خواندنی‌ست و هم از بيرون
ولی از بيرون بر‌عكس خوانده مي‌شود.
در خواندنِ متن نوشته شده روي ها چه اتّفاقي مي‌افتد . ها كم‌كم مي‌رود ، متنِ تو را با خود مي‌برد. ابهام مي‌رود، متن گم مي‌شود در وضوح.


جنین حاشیه

با تنم
بر تنت
چه حاشیه‌ها که نخواهم نوشت


Translator’s Note: The Poems of Kayvan Tahmasebian

Born in the year of Iran’s Islamic Revolution, Kayvan Tahmasebian has lived through the eight-year Iran-Iraq war, reformist political unrests, and over two decades of sanctions. The poems in the Janin cycle bear witness to each of these political upheavals. Together, they have shaped the author’s aesthetic response to the state of emergency that has become a norm for his generation within Iran, across the Middle East, and around the world.

Initiated in 2007 and now nearing completion, the Janin cycle consists of a series of mostly prose poems centered on the concept of janin (the Persian word for “fetus,” derived from the Arabic root that associates “concealment” and “genie”). These fetuses are people (historical and imaginary), objects, places and ideas. Moving between the “poetry of ideas” and the “idea of the poem,” the poems call on the reader to grasp poetic experience by absorbing the original idea in its most in-formed, fragmentary and unborn state. These poetic fetuses resemble poetic fragments that have either been aborted by the flow of history, or which are yet to be fully born. Like fetuses, the Janin poems abound in potentialities. Formally, they resist the hardening of language that accompanies birth. Seeking freedom from the restrictions of verse conventions, the Janin poems also resist conventional versification even as they engage with classical norm.

Poetic experiments in prose are rare in Persian modernism, but not unprecedented in Persian literature. In fact, prose poetry is a major part of the Persian classical mystic literature, as witnessed by the provocative poetics of Ruzbihan Baqli (12th century), Ahmad Ghazali (11th century), Attar of Nishapur (12th century), Rumi (13th century), and Shams Tabrizi (13th century). The prose poems of modernist French authors such as Francis Ponge and Edmond Jabès, whom Tahmasebian translated into Persian, have also influenced his literary experimentations. His translations of Ponge were published alongside three of his Janin poems in the 2007 volume of Jong Pardis, an important yearly anthology of Isfahani poetry that has helped to define Iranian literary modernism.

The Janin poems turn the act of reading into a form of poetic creation that balances thought and image. By proposing poetry as a commentary on creation, the complete Janin cycle serves as a prolegomenon to the author’s second major poem cycle, “Marginalia,” which consists of literary-critical fragments delivered in poetic language. Whereas the Janin cycle bears witness to a cyclical statement of emergency, “Marginalia” follows Walter Benjamin in seeking to restore poetry to its ideational substance and critical prose to its figurative origins.

Rebecca GouldRebecca Gould is a writer, critic, and scholar of the literatures of the Caucasus. She is the author of Writers and Rebels: The Literature of the Insurgency in the Caucasus (Yale University Press, 2016), and the translator of Prose of the Mountains, by Aleksandre Qazbegi (Central European University Press, 2015), and After Tomorrow the Days Disappear: Poems of Hasan Sijzi of Delhi (Northwestern University Press, 2015).



Kayvan TahmasebianKayvan Tahmasebian is an Iranian poet, translator, and literary critic based in Isfahan. He is the author of Isfahan’s Mold (Sadeqia dar Bayat Esfahan, 2016), on the fiction of the short story writer Bahram Sadeqi, and a forthcoming volume on the Iranian modernist poet Bijan Elahi.