Project Description

Fatemeh Shams


From Mashhad, Iran, Fatemeh Shams won the silver medal in the Iranian national Literature Olympiad in 2000. After graduating in sociology from Tehran University, Fatemeh pursued post-graduate studies in London and Oxford where she taught Persian language and literature. In the 2009 post-election turmoil, Fatemeh and her family were targeted by the state for supporting the Green movement. Fatemeh was then forced into exile. She won the Jaleh Esfahani poetry award for the best young Persian poet in 2012. Her first book of poetry was published in 2013 under the title of ’88’. She holds a doctorate in Persian poetry and is currently a Visiting Teaching Fellow at SOAS and at the Courtauld Institute, University of London. Her poetry collection in English is entitled When They Broke Down The Door (Mage, 2016).

The Refugee

Poem: Fatemeh Shams
Translation: Dick Davis
The loss of a person’s worth, his future lost in those seas,
The loss of the boat of a child of refugees
The loss of a doll’s hand in the depths of the ocean,
In the depths of its death-filled profundities
The loss of a step on the way to the mountains
The luckless at the borders, the loss of all kindnesses
Two burned wings are little enough from the world to have,
Migratory birds, with no visas overseas
Migratory birds on the way to nowhere, birds
Scattered and lost in nowhere’s immensities
Their backpacks are empty of spring and of laughter
Their backpacks are heavy with pain, uneasy anxieties
Homeland is a sad past with no end
Homeland: the heart-breaking loss of the refugees.