by Dr Jennifer Langer
Founding Director Exiled Writers Ink
It is too far too soon to say ‘I remember’ Esmail, but when I think of him, the image I have is of a restless, insatiable rebel, of a man who was always kind, caring and modest despite his great stature as a poet.
I first made his acquaintance when another exiled Iranian poet, Ahmad Ebrahimi and I, were engaged in setting up the very first Exiled Lit Café in 2000, a project to which Esmail was totally committed and in fact, he willingly agreed to become an Exiled Writers Ink patron and unfailingly accepted invitations to read his work over the years.
Undoubtedly, Esmail’s poetry can be considered one of the important poetic voices of exile. Esmail’s oeuvre ranges from his strident poetry defending human rights and political freedom the world over, to the tenderness and beauty of his love poems. I always sensed his acute pain of exile and, in fact, his two dual language poetry books in English and Farsi, are called Songs of Nowhereland and Outlandia: Songs of Exile. His poem ‘Return to Borgio Verezzi’ is a supreme work of art which Esmail recently chose to be read at the international Red Carnation event which was the very last time I saw him.
Constantly railing and fuming against the Iranian regime, he wrote numerous poems to vent this anger, such as those in Voice of Exile, despite the risks and the danger in which this act of resistance and courage placed him, even in exile. Yet, I believe his rage was actually tantamount to an expression of mourning and of his profound love and nostalgia for his homeland. Poetry was a vessel for the powerful articulation of the tension of love with the hatred of what his beloved Iran had become.
Esmail, we will not see your like again and we will forever miss your deep humanity and conviction but your work will live on.