News ID: 317346
Published: 0234 GMT October 25, 2021

Iran is the land of poetry, nightingales and roses: Croatian envoy

Iran is the land of poetry, nightingales and roses: Croatian envoy

By Zaman Rezakhani

Ambassador Drago Stambuk is known to be an experienced Croatian diplomat who has represented his country in Brazil, Egypt, South Korea, India, and Japan and now in Iran. He is a medical doctor specializing in internal medicine, but he is also famous for his poetry. He received the Order of the Rising Sun in Japan in 2019 for his contribution to the global recognition of the Haiku poetic form.

His poetry books have been published in many languages. The unveiling ceremony of his second book in Persian, ‘Blurred Mirror,’ was held by the Association of Iranian Studies on October 20. The association has developed a plan to introduce world contemporary poetry to Iranians who love international literature. Stambuk’s poems are translated and published within the framework of this plan, according to Mahmoud Jafari Dehaqi, the chairman of the Association of Iranian Studies.

Iran Daily’s devoted reader Zaman Rezakhani conducted an interview with Ambassador Stambuk about his published works in Persian; however, his knowledge of Persian history, literature and mythology surprised us and raised new subjects in our conversation.

 

You have published two poetry books in Persian: ‘Damavand’ and ‘Blurred Mirror’. Tell us more about the books. What’s behind these names?

STAMBUK: ‘Damavand from the Other Side of the Sea’ was promoted on Yalda Night, the longest night of the year when Iranians read poetry and observe other traditional customs to symbolically wait for tomorrow’s light to come.

Damavand became important to me when I discovered the beauty of this mountain. The peak is also important in Iranian mythology. Many stories start or progress around the mountain. For example, Zahhak is there, Simorgh lives on Damavand, Zarathustra (Zoroaster) walked by the mount, Arash the Archer’s story involves Damavand, etc.

When I recently visited Damavand, I took a photo of it, which was shown in one of my TV programs in Croatia. In this photo, I’m holding the book ‘Damavand’ and behind me is this mountain with beautiful lines of snow on it.

I believe Damavand is as important to Iranians as Mount Fujiyama is to the Japanese. Mount Fuji is the national and UNESCO heritage in Japan.

My second book in Persian, named ‘Blurred Mirror,’ is about the mystical concept of mirrors. We see ourselves in others; other people’s souls are mirrors. If these mirrors are not clear enough, we won’t see ourselves. Today, the world is full of struggle, chaos, uncertainty and aggression. This is the dark world which resembles the blurred mirror. However, we must look for a crystal-clear one in which we can see ourselves. If we don’t do that, the future will become bleak for our planet. So in this book, while I speak about a blurred mirror, in fact, I’m craving for a crystal-clear one.

 

Many of your poems are short, modernist and easy to understand, while they are beautiful in a way that touches your audience. How do you describe your own style of poetry?

Some people compare me to Ahmad Shamlou. I don’t know why. Maybe because he was such a modernist poet. However, I don't think about being a modernist. I just do my job and follow my inner voice. Sometimes, I’m very versatile in my way of writing. For example, I write Haiku, which is a very short poem with three lines. I started writing Haiku before going to Japan. On the other hand, I’ve written very long poems.

The length of your poem depends on how much you want to write about something. Sometimes you add things to a certain point and sometimes you reduce your words. The important thing is to know when to stop. Recently, a professor of Persian literature told me my poems were “poems of beautiful endings!”

 

Why is poetry so important?

I believe poetry is an inner spark that brings light; it is divine activity. A real poet is a priest of words, a person who ignites the world with the wisdom or beauty of messages. However, poems do not always have to be messages. A beautiful poem can be beautiful even if you don’t comprehend it!

We have ideas, words and deeds. Words are something in between and have a huge capacity to either improve or damage things. So people who are good with words, should be very careful how to use them since words end up in deeds. I would say we can govern the words we have not spoken, but as soon as they are spoken, they enter the world and entail responsibility.

 

How do you describe Iran and Persian poetry?

Iran is the land of poetry, nightingales and roses. The countries which have the greatest poets are the greatest countries to me. In that respect, Iran is one of the most important countries on Earth. The problem is that Iranian poetry is not translated well, or enough, but people of the world are gradually getting to know more about it.

Persian is the timeless language of literature and culture. When you think about Ferdowsi, Hafez, Sa’di, Sanai, Attar, Rumi and many contemporary poets in this language, you get amazed.

I’m also impressed by the kindness of Iranians. When I first arrived in Iran, one day I was looking for spinach in a store. The store had just run out of it and a lady who had bought the last batch of spinach gave it to me enthusiastically. First, I tried not to accept it, but she nicely asked me to take the spinach and she didn’t even let me pay for it. I was so amazed.

I also remember one day when I was promoting one of my books in Iran; an ambassador was in the ceremony and wanted to buy my book, but he did not have cash with himself. He only had a card which was not supported there. So an Iranian nicely paid for the book and gave it to that ambassador.

 

Iranians are known to be lovers of poetry and cultural heritage. Have you ever thought about conducting a kind of cultural diplomacy between the two nations of Iran and Croatia?

Absolutely! I’m working with Mahmoud Jafari Dehaqi to bring out a book on the anthology of contemporary Croatian poetry. Now I'm also thinking of another book on contemporary Iranian poetry in Croatian language.

For me, diplomacy is “coming to understand other people”. If I don’t understand the people of the country I’m working in, I’m not a successful ambassador. I think heart-to-heart expressions and meetings are the most important part of an ambassador’s job. Therefore, I always try to understand common links. In the case of Iran, for example, Hravat which is the name of my nation, is an old Iranian noun. When you go to Persepolis, you will see people from Hravatia bringing presents to Darius the Great. If you also go to Kermanshah, you will see the name of our country on Behistun Inscriptions in three languages: Elamite, Babylonian and Old Persian.

It is interesting that the only nation in Europe which uses the Persian title “Ban” for the leader are Croats.

Actually, I wanted to hold some kind of symposium on these historical links, but the pandemic broke out and it was cancelled. Maybe we will get to hold the symposium in 2022.

 

Any plans for your next book of poetry?

Poetry is God’s gift. I believe a poet is someone who is in gratitude of this great gift. For me, a poem is an offering in return for this valuable present which is granted to us.

As for me, I have no plans for writing poetry. There is only a little source inside me which produces poems. It’s something that works all the time. Inspirations come and go and there is no rule.

Of course, people write in different ways. I know that some people prepare themselves when they want to write a novel, for example. They study archives and only start to write when they know what it is all about. Doris Lessing who was a friend of mine and a Nobel laureate, used to write when she was prepared enough. But Haruki Murakami, the famous Japanese writer and novelist who I befriended while I was the ambassador to Japan, once told me, “I never prepare myself. I have a white paper and I start, while I have no idea where it takes me to.” People develop different styles between these two extremes. I think poets are more prone to Haruki Murakami’s style.

Sometimes a line or a word may trigger you off to write a poem.

 

 

   
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