Does a masculine air rule over poetry awards in Iran?

This was originally published on ISNA and Payvand. It has been edited for clarity.

The first award for female Iranian poets will be awarded in the week of December 21-27 (first week of the Iranian month of Dey).


According to the news agency ISNA, in the news conference held on November 23rd, seven works have been selected out of 17 for the final competition:

  • According to Alborz Time (Be vaghte Alborz), by Mehrnoosh Ghorbanali, Ahange Digar Publications

  • Autumn will reach your knees (Paeez ta zanoohayat khahad resid), by Neda Kamyab, Saless Publications

  • Piano, by Maryam Jafari Azarmani, Majnoon Publications

  • You talk and words are freed in me (Sokhan migooyi kalameh ha dar man azad mishavand), by Mina Dastgheib, Navide Shiraz Publications

  • Translate your voice for me (Sedayat ra barayam tarjomeh kon), by Homa Fazel, Paj Publications

  • That’s not it (Faghat hamin nist), by Monireh Parvaresh, Saless Publications

  • I want to swallow my children (Mikhaham bache hayam ra ghoort bedaham), by Roya Zarrin, Hazar Publications



The secretary of the award-giving committee, Sepideh Jadiri, said in this conference: Our goal was not gender differentiation, but to create an opportunity for women poets to compete and be introduced to the literary community.

Referring to similar poetry awards in the U.S., for women mentioned in their charters, she explained: We wanted to have similar activity in Iran.

In regard to the criticisms about this award and why all jury members are women, Jadiri said: Despite the significant number of our female poets, no woman is found in even one of our literary award-giving juries. We specifically called it the award for women poets, but they [other poetry awards] do not make this gender distinction, while in practice all members of juries are men and the majority of selected works belong to men, too. So a masculine air rules over them, with women being largely ignored. We are asked why all the jury members are women, but nobody asks them why all jury members of the award that is accidentally designed for both genders are all men. We preferred women, because we thought women are more familiar with the feminine world.

This poet also said: From the beginning, we decided to have one winner, which is really my decision and if the secretary changes one day, it is possible that everything changes and we would have more than one winner. However, the number of works published by male and female poets each year is not high. No doubt, censorship is a problem. We received 64 books by female poets, but if all books received publication permit, no doubt a higher number of books would get published. On the other hand, we had gender limitation and it seems one selected work per year is enough, because I do not think we have more than one super work in the domain of poetry in one year.

Seven works have reached the last stage in the form of a book published by Chatr, she pointed out and then continued: We will have poetry readings and a book sale during the week of the award-giving, and we will try to introduce the books of all seven selected poets. There will be one winner, however, who will receive five gold coins, special mention and a statue. There will be special mention and a statue for a female pioneer poet, whose name will be revealed later.

Referring to the winner, she said: In regard to the selected works, there was not much dispute among the jury and that is why there was no need to hold any more sessions.

The secretary of female poets’ award (Khorshid) added: I do not believe that there were not many female poets in the [1370s] ([1990s]); the point is that [they] were not noticed. More attention is always paid to male poets, is it not? In fact, good female poets were not pointed out. Fereshteh Sari, Banafesh Hejazi and Khatere Hejazi are among the good poets of ’60s (’80s), but were overshadowed by men. To me women’s activity has not been taken seriously in the recent decade and whenever a few women gather for this purpose, their meeting is questioned.


Jadiri maintained: The award is given in the first week of Dey because of Forough Farokhzad’s birthday in this month and her great influence on modern poetry of Iran in general, and on women in particular. Our goal is not limited to introducing the super poet, but super critics, too.

Mehri Jafari – one of the juries – also said: Award means encouragement. My personal concern is women and nothing else. I wish to encourage cultural activity of women.

Another member of jury, Banafesh Hejazi said: As soon as we utter the word woman, it is as though we wish to exclude men or vice versa. But this is an outdated view. Each gender has its own place and should not be looked upon as scales of a balance. Our group wished to do something encouraging, such as giving the opportunity to women to act as jury that can be a new field of activity for them. Selection of a few books is not all, there is a wide spectrum of activity going on for this purpose. Even the sponsors are women and ultimately all will benefit from it in the society. Women are not from Mars, are they?!

Pegah Ahamadi – another jury member – said: It is true that we were asked why we made a gender differentiation, but this was not our goal.

According to another member of the jury, Roya Tafti: everybody cooperated, but we still have some problems. When men can not work in a professional way, the same will be true about women. We still have many unanswered questions in relation to men, let alone women. If we manage to support the award financially, this would mean a lot for a poet whose work has reached such a stage.

For more information refer to the following site: www.khorshidprize.com

Note: Original article published in Persian by ISNA.
Translated for Payvand.com by BMarz translators: http://www.BMarz.com


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