ATASHI, MANUCHEHR (Manučehr Ātaši, b. Dehrud-e Soflā, in Daštestān of Bušehr, 2 Mehr 1310 Š./25 September 1931; d. Tehran, 29 Ābān 1384 Š./20 November 2005), modernist poet, journalist, and translator (FIGURE 1).
The eldest child of the family, Manuchehr was born to Pari and Moḥammad Ātaši in a small village in Bušehr. His ancestors were descended from nomads in Kermānšāh in western Iran who had migrated to the southern regions around 300 years ago. His grandfather was Ātaš Khan Zangana, from whom the family gets its name. Atashi’s education began in 1938 at Kangān on the Persian Gulf, where he attended a maktab and was taught the Qurʾan and the Golestān of Saʿdi. In 1943 the family moved to Bušehr, and Atashi continued his education at Ferdowsi elementary school (Yāḥosayni, pp. 24-50).
Missing the bucolic backdrop of his childhood, he soon dropped off the school and decided to leave the city and live in Čāh-kutāh, a village in the outskirts of Bušehr, where he worked as a shepherd for a short time and fell in love with a young girl, who eventually married another man,and died at an early age (Ḵošk-Bijāri, p. 99). He retreats to his memories of her again and again in many of his poems, including "Ḵākestar" in Āhang-e digar (Another melody, 1959). The following stanza of the poem was the subject of a tele-poem by Naṣib Naṣibi, the avant-garde director, in 1970 (Tamimi, p. 296).
Če šabhā ārezu kardam
Ke nāgah dast-e dar u rā dar āḡuš-e man andāzad
Nafas yābad ze ʿaṭr-e peykaraš har bi-nafas injā
Be šādi beškanad ham-čon del-e man har gereftāri, qafas injā
(“Ḵākestar,”Āhang-e digar, p. 60)
(Many were the nights I wished
That the hand of the door would throw her, unannounced, into my embrace
That would find breath in the scent of her body, each breathless one here.
That with joy, like my heart, all captured would shatter the cage here.)
Atashi returned to Bušehr in 1948 and enrolled at Saʿādat high school. In September 1951 he went to Shiraz and continued his studies at the Teacher Training School (Dānešsarā-ye moqaddamāti). While in Shiraz he had access to prominent literary journals of the day, including Soḵan, founded in 1943 by Parviz Natel Khanlari (1914-1990), and was exposed to the poetry of such modernist poets as Fereydun Tavallali, Nāder Nāderpur (1929-2000), and Fereydun Moširi (1926-2000). He joined the Tudeh Party (see COMMUNISM ii, iii) in 1951, and some of his early works exhibit the hallmarks of leftist ideologies (Yāḥosayni, p. 94).
In May 1954 he was appointed to a teaching position in Bandar-e Rig, near Genāveh, where he taught for 9 months. He then moved to Bušehr and taught at Pahlavi high school till 1960. Moḥammad Biābāni and ʿAli Bābāĉāhi, who later rose to prominence as poets, were among his students (Tamimi, pp. 90-99).
After the publication of his first poetry collection, Āhang-e digar, in 1960, he moved to Tehran to study English language and literature at Teachers Training College (Dānešsarā-ye ʿĀli; Tamimi, p. 157). He returned to Bušehr after graduation in 1964 and began teaching at Šāhdoḵt high school, where Moniru Ravānipur (b. 1954), the noted novelist, was among his students. He married Ṯorayyā Ṯobāti in 1965. They had a daughter, Šaqāyeq (1968), and a son, Māneli (1970) whom they lost to encephalitis at the age of nineteen. The marriage ended in divorce in 1979.
Atashi moved to Qazvin in 1967. After a year however, he chose to live in Tehran and commute to Qazvin, where his job took him (Yāḥosayni, p. 189). He was in charge of Radio Iran’s program “Qesse-ye šab” (Night story), as well as the poetry page of Tamāšā, a literary-cultural periodical renamed Soruš after the 1979 revolution (Tamimi, p. 295).
Atashi also played in Ārāmeš dar ḥożur-e digarān (Tranquility in the presence of others), a film directed by Nāṣer Taqvāʾi based on a story in Vāhemahā-ye bi nām o nešān (1967), a short story collection by Ḡolām-Ḥosayn Sāʿedi, translated into English by Roger Campbell as Nameless and Elusive Apprehensions in 1981. Atashi was also involved in editing the screenplay for Dalirān-e Tangestān, a film based on the eponymous novel by Moḥammad Ḥosayn Rokn Zādeh Ādamiyat (1897-1975) and directed by Homāyun Šahnavāz (Tamimi, pp. 297-98).
On the unsubstantiated charges of involvement in the state censorship before the revolution, Atashi lost all his assignments in 1981, including the editorship of the poetry page of Tamāšā (Atashi, p. 347-48). He returned to Bušehr and married his second wife in 1982. The marriage came to an end after the birth of their first child, a daughter called Šowʿleh (Yāḥosayni, pp. 341-42). After working in a company in Bušehr for a brief time, he was transferred to Vali-e ʿAṣr Gas Refinery in Kangān, where he worked from 1987 to 1992 and published several of his poetry collections (see below).
At the invitation of CIRA (Center for Iranian Research and Analysis), he traveled to California in April 1993 and lectured about poetry and democracy at the annual meeting of CIRA (Tamimi, p. 354). He also visited several other academic institutions. After working from 1995 to 1997 with Āyina-ye jonub, a weekly paper in Bušehr, he moved to Tehran and started a period of cooperation with Hušang Golširi, the editor-in-chief of Kār-nāma, as the literary journal’s editor of the poetry page―a position he held for the rest of his life.
In a ceremony held by the government of Iran in November 2005, a few days before his death, Atashi was recognized as “Čehra-ye māndagār,” an official title by which the figures with distinguished merits are awarded; this recognition roused disparagement in some circles, to which he did not survive to respond. He died of heart complications after a kidney operation in Sinā Hospital in Tehran and was buried in Bušehr.
Several journals dedicated special issues to Atashi’s poetry. They particularly dealt with his significance in the history and development of a distinct type of regional poetry that, while dramatizing the circumstances of life in the sun-soaked atmosphere of the region, cherishes the potentially beautiful and joyous aspects of the nomadic lifestyle―factors somehow overlooked by many poets and writers whose works are colored by political ideologies. Mention should be made of Etteḥād-e Jonub(Esfand 1387 Š./March, 2009, No. 536); Persian Gulf News Agency: Special Issue on the Occasion of Fifth Anniversary of Atashi’s Death (2010, no. 23581); Payām-e jonub(Ābān 1388 Š./November, 2009); and special issue of Payḡām (Sorenā) the proceedings of a congress on Manuchehr ’s poetry in November 2009.
Atashi’s literary career can be divided into three distinct, and interrelated periods (Mokhtāri, p. 17). His first poems, much in line with the rhymes and meters by which Persian classic poetry is recognized (see ʿARUZ), appeared in Daryā Kenār, a local newspaper published in Bušehr, when he was barely fourteen years old (Yāḥosayni, p. 77). His literary debut, however, is marked by the publication in 1959 of his first poetry collection, Āhang-e digar, under the auspices of the translator and literary critic Reżā Sayyed Ḥosayni (1926-2009). The collection comprises 35 undated poems in a wide range of styles, from classic to moderately modern poems with varying number of lines in a variety of lengths in each stanza, to free verses that follow no traceable rhythm and rhyme (Nuriʿlāʾ, p. 219). The heroic language of the collection, which included his most cherished poem “Asb-e sefid-e vaḥši” (known also as “Ḵanjarhā, busahā o paymānhā”), stridently resonated in the dreamy landscape of the period’s bleak romanticism (Ḥoquqi, p. 371) and earned him high literary appreciation as one of the most articulate interpreters of the untamed splendors of life in the southern regions (Farroḵzād, p. 633; Moḵtāri, pp.48-50; Šarifi, p. 19).
Asb-e sefid-e vaḥši
bar āḵor istāda gerān-saranduhnak-e qalʿa-ye ḵoršid suḵtast
bā sar ḡoruraš, ammā del bā dariḡ riš …
Wild white horse
standing somber at the stable
mindful of the desert’s ill-starred breast
sorrowful about the burnt tower of the sun
proud in the head but dejected at heart
(Karimi-Hakkak, 1978, p. 112)
The recurrence of asb-e sefid-e vaḥši at the beginning of several stanzas of the poem, a technique Atashi employs in many of his poems, not only amplifies the harmony and the musical tone of the poem, but also unites the thoughts and sentiments that have inspired it.
Āvāz-e ḵāk (The song of earth), Atashi’s second poetry collection with 46 poems, was published in Tehran in 1967. Horse, hoof, village, blood, wind, and a range of other fauna and flora imagery―recurrent motifs in the fabric of his earlier poems―appear in increased frequency in this collection and distinguish him as a poet “with a new and authentic voice from the southern coast of Iran” (Karimi-Hakkak, 2005a, p. 404). Solitude and hopelessness, partly related to the ups and downs of his personal life, lurk at the background of most of the collection’s poems. More in line with the central tenets of Nimaic poetry, these carefully crafted poems often follow a narrative line with an epic disposition in a simple language (Zarqāni, p. 607). Examples include “Ẓohur,” also known as “ʿAbdu-ye jaṭ,” in praise of a legendary figure in Bušehr, and “Naqšhāʾi bar sofāl” in the same collection.
Didār dar falaq (Meeting at dawn, Tehran, 1970) marked the end of an initial glorified period in Atashi’s literary output. The ‘purgatory’ period that followed (Moḵtāri, p.73), coincided with Atashi’s travel from Bušehr to Tehran―a change of climate that saw the originally untamed and nomadic texture of his poems yield to the gradual intrusion of urban imageries (Zarqāni, p. 609). His increased involvement in editing and journalism, at the expense of his poetry, contributed to his failure to conjure up the image he had formerly gained as a poet with a distinct diction and style (Movaḥḥed, pp. 244-45). However, his critical analyses of young poets’ poems published in Tamāšā,which led to the establishment of Jaryān-e šeʿr-e nāb (Pure poetry movement) should not be downplayed. Noted among the poets who are identified with the movement are Bižan Jalāli, Hormoz ʿAlipur, Sayyed ʿAli Ṣālehi, Āryā Āryāpur, and Mehdi Moṣlehi (Yāḥosayni, p. 328).
Bar entehā-ye āḡāz (At the end of the beginning), which consisted of a selected number of poems from his previously published collections, appeared in 1972, as did a story for children, entitled Sargozašt-e kešvar-e kučak (The story of the small country), published by the Kānun-e parvareš-e fekri-e kudakān va nowjavānān.
Atashi’s escape from the tumult and turmoil associated with the years that succeeded the 1979 revolution to Bušehr, a territory that had never departed his imagination, marked the beginning of the third period of his literary career. His poetry flourished again in the landscape that had generated its initial energetic tone (Moḵtāri, p. 17) and had inspired its distinct language and the stock of its unique concrete imageries (Šafiʿi-Kadkani, pp. 114-15). The appearance of his Gozina-ye ašʿār (Selected poems) in 1987 was followed by the publication of several other collections, most noted among them Vaṣf-e gol-e suri (Tehran, 1992), Gandom o gilās (Wheat and cherry, Tehran, 1992), and Zibātar az šekl-e qadim-e jahān (More beautiful than the old shape of the world, Tehran, 1997), a selection of his poems between 1989 and 1997, which earned him the award as the best poet in 2002 by the Ministry of Culture and Islamic Guidance.
The anxiety-ridden atmosphere of his earlier poems gives way to the gradual appearance of a pensive mood in this period, which flavors his language and poetical imageries with a blend of lyricism and humanitarian expressiveness. Many of his poems in this period are colored by local scenes, legends, and folklore, and by his meditations on youthful years, questioning the operations of the memory (Karimi-Hakkak, 2005b, p. 366).
Az ḥāfeża birun miāyad zan
az panāh-e biša
tā šāna foru miravad dar āb
va māh rā be ḵalsa mibarad….
zan-i o māh-i yegāna mišavand dar āb
(“Zani az ḥāfeża” Collected poems, 2007, pp. 97-98)
A woman rises out of memory,
Moves from behind the trees into the lagoon,
Water rising up to her shoulders
She moves the moon to ecstasy….
Behind the trees
A woman and the moon come together in the waters
(Karimi-Hakkak, 2005a, p. 405)
Bārān-e barg-e ḏowq: daftar-e ḡazalhā (Rain of joy: book of ghazals), a collection of Atashi’s mono-rhymed poems and ḡazals, was published in 2001 with the assistance of his friend ʿAbdol-Majid Zanguʾi. Two other collections of his poems saw the light of the day at the same year: Ettefāq-e āḵar (The last event) and Ḥādeṯa dar bāmdād (The event in dawn). Ḵalij o ḵazar (The Gulf and the Caspian) was published in 2002. Ḡazal-e ḡazal hā-ye Sorenā (2005) and Rišehā-ye šab (Roots of night, 2005), along with a comprehensive collection of his poetry in two volumes (2007), were published posthumously.
Atashi also authored a series of books reviewing and critiquing the poetry of Nimā Yušij, Aḥmad Šāmlu, Mehdi Aḵavān-Ṯāleṯ, Sohrāb Sepehri, and Foruḡ Farroḵzād, among others (see below). He also translated several books, all from English into an accessible Persian (see below).
Āhang-e digar (Another melody), Tehran, 1959.
Āvāz-e ḵāk (The song of the earth), Tehran, 1967.
Bar entehā-ye aḡāz (At the end of the beginning), Tehran, 1972.
Bārān-e barg-e ḏowq: daftar-e ḡazalhā (The rain of joy: the book of ghazals), with ʿAbdol-Majid Zanguʾi, Tehran, 2001.
Če talḵ ast in sib (How bitter is this apple), Tehran, 1999.
Didār dar falaq (Meeting at dawn), Tehran, 1970.
Ettefāq-e āḵar (The last event), Tehran, 2001.
Gozina-ye ašʿār (Selected poems), Tehran, 1987.
Gandom o gilās (The wheat and the cherry), Tehran, 1992.
Ḡazal-e ḡazalhā-ye Sorenā (The ghazals of Sorena), Tehran, 2005.
Ḥādeṯa dar bāmdād (The event at dawn), Tehran, 2001.
Ḵalij o ḵazar (The Gulf and the Caspian), Tehran, 2002.
Majmuʿa-ye ašʿār (Collected poems), Tehran, 2007.
Rišahā-ye šab (The roots of the night), Tehran, 2005.
Vaṣf-e gol-e suri (In praise of the red rose), Tehran, 1992.
Zibā tar az šekl-e qadim-e jahān (More beautiful than the old shape of the world), Tehran, 1997.
Fontamara (1930), by Ignazio Silone (1900-1978), Tehran, 1969.
Island of the Blue Dolphins (1960), by Scott O'Dell (1898-1989), as Jazira-ye dolphinhā-ye ābi, Tehran, 1972.
Matchmaker (1954), by Thornton Niven Wilder (1897-1975), as Dallāla, Tehran, 1972.
Strange Travelers (1960), by Sigmund A. Lavine, as Mohājerān, Tehran, 1972.
Sun and Moon (2004) by Kathleen Seros, as āftāb-mahtāb,Tehran, 2007.
Aḵavān: šāeʿri ke šeʿraš bud (Aḵvān: the poet who was his own poem), Tehran, 2003.
Foruḡ dar miān-e ašbāḥ (Foruḡ among the ghosts), Tehran, 2003.
Nimā rā bāz ham beḵˇānim: ḵiāl-e ruz hā-ye rowšan (Reading Nimā again: remembering the bright days), Tehran, 2003.
Šāmlu dar taḥlili enteqādi(Šāmlu: a critical analysis), Tehran, 2003.
Sargoḏašt-e kešvar-e kučak (The story of the small country), Tehran, 1972.
Sohrāb: šāʿer-e naqš-hā (Sohrāb: the poet of images), Tehran, 2003.
Manučehr Ātaši, “Ātaši” in Palang-e darra-ye Dizeškan: zendegi va šeʿr-e Manučehr Ataši, Farroḵ Tamimi, Tehran, 1998.
Foruḡ Farroḵzād, “Ātaši,” in Tāriḵ-e taḥlili-e šeʿr-e now (Modern poetry: an analytical history), Šams Langerudi, Tehran, 1991.
Moḥammad Ḥoquqi, Šeʿr-e now az āḡāz tā emruz: 1301-1350 (Modern poetry from the beginning to the present: 1922-1972), Tehran, 1972.
Ahmad Karimi-Hakkak, An Anthology of Modern Persian Poetry, New York, 1978, pp. 112-14.
Idem, “Manuchehr Atashi,” in Strange Times, My Dear: Pen Anthology of Contemporary Iranian Literature, ed. Nahid Mozaffari, 2005a, pp. 403-06.
Idem, “Introduction,” in Strange Times, My Dear: Pen Anthology of Contemporary Iranian Literature, ed. Nahid Mozaffari, 2005b, pp. 365-70.
Samirā Ḵošk-Bijāri, Naḵl-e boland-e qāmat-e naḵlestān: pažuheši pirāmun-e zendagi, andiša, va ašʿār-e Manučehr Ataši, Tehran, 2008.
Šams Langerudi, Tāriḵ-e taḥlili-e šeʿr-e now (Modern poetry: an analytical history), Tehran, 1991.
Ẓiāʾ Movaḥḥed, “Manučehr Ātaši: ḏowraq-e šegerf,” in idem, Diruz o emruz-e šeʿr-e Fārsi(Persian poetry: yesterday and today), Tehran, 2010, pp. 243-46.
Moḥḵā, Šā‘erān-e mo‘āṣer-e Iran: Manučehr Atashi, Tehran, 1999.
Esmāʿil Nuriʿalā, Ṣovar va asbāb dar šeʿr-e emruz-e Iran (Imageries and techniques in contemporary Persian poetry), Tehran, 1969.
Moḥammad Šarifi, Farhang-e adabiyāt-e Fārsi, Tehran, 2009, p. 13.
Moḥammad Reżā Šafiʿi Kadakani, Advār-e šeʿr-e Fārsi az mašruṭiyat tā soquṭ-e salṭanat (The history of Persian poetry from the constitutional revolution to the end of the monarchy), Tehran, 2001.
Farroḵ Tamimi, Palang-e darra-ye Dizeškan: zendagi va šeʿr-e Manučehr Ataši, Tehran, 1998.
Sayyed Qāsem Yāḥosayni, Ataši dar masir-e zendagi, Bušehr, 2003.
Mehdi Zar qāni, Češmandāz-e šeʿr-e moʿāṣer-e Irān, Tehran, 2004.
Last Updated: September 26, 2012