0751 GMT September 26, 2022
Iran’s legendary poet Amir-Houshang Ebtehaj, better known by his pen name Sayeh (literally, shadow), died at the age of 94 in Cologne, Germany on Wednesday.
Yalda, daughter of the late poet, announced the death of her father on her Instagram page, IRNA reported.
Ebtehaj had been hospitalized in Germany for kidney failure on July 8.
Ebtehaj was born on February 25, 1928, in the northern lush green Iranian city of Rasht. His first book of poetry, with an introduction by the eminent late poet Mehdi Hamidi-Shirazi, was published when he was 19.
Sayeh was an ardent advocate of the poetry of social commitment. His early poems betrayed his deep concern with a purposeful literature.
In a relatively small number of modern poems, he managed to establish an enviable literary character defined by profusely emotional and meticulously chosen words.
Ebtehaj also wrote a collection of lyrics in the classical style. Here, he reveals an easy mastery of traditional forms – the lyrical ode, in particular – which he uses to celebrate moments of life. Sayeh’s poetry, at times highly emotional, is always remarkable for its convincing directness and unconcealed sentiment.
A number of his lyrical and modern poems as well as his ballads have been performed by famous Iranian vocalists and singers.
Sayeh’s selected poems have been translated into English by Chad Sweeney & Mojdeh Marashi in a book titled, ‘The Art of Stepping through Time.’
‘The First Songs,’ (1946) ‘Mirage,’ (1951) ‘Bleak Travails,’ (1953-1992) ‘Nocturnal,’ ‘Earth,’ ‘Pages from the Longest Night,’ (1965) ‘Until the Dawn of the Longest Night,’ (1981) ‘Memorial to the Blood of the Cypress,’ (1981) ‘Mirror in Mirror, Selected Poems,’ (1995) and ‘Dispirited’ (2006) were among Ebtehaj’s great works.
In Germany, Ebtehaj immersed himself in poetry and his own research into the critical study of Hafez’s ‘Divan’. ‘Hafez,’ by Sayeh, published as a handsome quarto edition in 1994, was the culmination of 10 years of scholarly and artistic reflection by the author, focusing specifically on producing critical editions of Hafez’s work. With the publication of ‘Hafez,’ Ebtehaj emerged among literary masters and lovers of Hafez alike as a scholar in the field of Hafez studies.
From that time on, Ebtehaj began to be invited to Western academic and cultural societies (including in London, Paris, and various cities in the United States and Canada) to deliver lectures on Hafez’s poetry, and his methods of compiling and editing the poet’s work.
In 2012, Iran’s great writer and literary critic Mohammadreza Shafiei Kadkani said, “Sayeh’s poetry is a continuation of the aesthetics of Hafez’s poetic style. From the time that Hafez introduced his style of poetry, which has been admired by people all over the world, until now, many great poets have tried to fly in the sky of his art . . . but no one has been as successful as Sayeh. [For] more than half a century, all Persian poetry lovers have filled their memories with Sayeh’s poems, and if we had a true statistic of the memories of those who know the works of all living poets of our time by heart, we would see that none can compete with Sayeh. Many of Sayeh’s verses have become current expressions.”
Iran’s poet Mehdi Akhavan-Sales said on Ebtehaj’s poetry, “His poems are of such quality and beauty that like golden coins they will immortalize Sayeh’s name in the Persian language.”
Condolences pour in
A number of Iranian officials and artists expressed their condolences over the death of the great poet.
Iran’s President Seyyed Ebrahim Raeisi, Head of the Saadi Foundation and the Academy of Persian Language and Literature Gholam-Ali Haddad-Adel, Iran’s Culture and Islamic Guidance Minister Mohammad-Mehdi Esmaeili, Deputy Culture Minister for Cultural Affairs Yaser Ahmadvand, Culture Minister Aide Mahmoud Shalouie, Head of the Iranian Society of Cultural Works and Luminaries Hassan Bolkhari, and General Secretary of Iran’s Public Libraries Foundation Mehdi Ramezani are among the officials who delivered condolence messages.
In his message of condolence, Raeisi wrote, “This lyricist and literary researcher, who opened a long-lasting chapter in Persian lyrics, played a significant role in protecting the linguistic treasure of Persian and spreading Iran’s culture.”
“Ebtehaj, no doubt, is a zenith of Persian poetry. He was the manifestation of coexistence between traditional and modern poetry,” Haddad-Adel wrote.
“His magnificent poems, no doubt, are of high status in contemporary poetry and literature,” Esmaeili wrote in his condolence message.
“Due to his inborn talent, he used social issues in his works, and his memorable ballads such as ‘Sepideh’ secured him a place among poets who sincerely loved their beloved motherland.”
In a phone call with the late poet’s daughter, on behalf of the minister, Shalouie said that the Ministry of Culture is ready to make all preparations for transferring the poet’s body to Iran and holding the funeral ceremony.
Iranian artists including Homayoun Shajarian, Kayhan Kalhor, Reza Kianian, Hootan Shakiba, Amir Aqaei, Bijan Birang also condoled the death of the literary figure.