Manuchehr Sheybani was the grandson of the noted poet of the Qajar era Fatḥ-Allāh Khan Šeybāni (1825-1890). He lost his father at the age of seven, and his maternal grandfather, Eqbāl-al-Solṭān, became his guardian following his mother’s second marriage. He went through his primary education in different cities and at the age of fifteen enrolled in an industrial school in Qaʾemšahr in Māzandarān, and he received his diploma in textile manufacturing (Šarifi, p. 925). Employment in a textile factory provided him a firsthand opportunity to experiment with textile designing and composition of dyes (Bābāčāhi, 2004, p. 8; Ḥosayni, p. 35). In 1943 he entered Honarestān-e Honarpišegi, Tehran’s first official performing arts school affiliated with Edāra-ye Namāyeš, which was under Sāzemān-e Parvareš-e Afkār, founded by the government in 1939. Sheybani studied art and stage design under Rafiʿ Hālati (1899-1981) and came under the intellectual sway of such celebrated figures as ʿAbd-al-Ḥosayn Nušin (1906-1971), a noted scholar and stage director, who encouraged him to study classical Persian literature (Bābāčāhi, 2004, p. 8). In 1945 he enrolled in the University of Tehran’s Faculty of Fine Arts (Ṣobḥi, 2004, p. 47, Kāḵi, p. 64) and published his first poetry collection, with 36 poems, titled Jaraqqa (Scintillation), which earned critical appreciation (Nafisi, pp. 121-22).
Sheybani soon joined Ḵorus Jangi (The fighting cock), an art and literary circle founded in 1949 by the painter Jalil Żiāʾpur (b. 1920) with the principal goal of searching for a new language in art and literature (Šams-e Langarudi, I, pp. 452-59, 553). Ḵorus Jangi also published a journal by the same title, with Sheybani as its first poetry editor.
Sheybani was the youngest modernist poet who participated in the First Iranian Writers Congress, sponsored by the Perso-Soviet Society of Cultural Relations (Anjoman-e ravābeṭ-e farhangi-e Iran va Ettehād-e Jamāhir-e Šowravi) in 1946 (Ricks, pp. 8-25). The poem he submitted to the Congress, in which several meters delimited each other, suffered from grammatical errors and unpolished language (Aminpur, p. 443).
Sheybani’s association with the poet and painter Sohrab Sepehri in 1948, as later acknowledged by Sepehri himself, marked a turning point in Sepehri’s artistic trajectory (Sepehri, p. 19; Sheybani, 2001, pp. 313-14). Rahgoḏar (The passerby), Sheybani’s first play, was published in the journal Jām-e jam in 1949. He graduated from the Faculty of Fine Arts in 1951, and two years later he traveled to Italy to study interior design (Bābāčāhi, 2004, p. 9; Ṣobḥi, 2004, p. 47). He returned to Iran in 1955, and from 1956 to 1958, along with Jalil Żiāʾpur, he traveled to the southern regions of Iran and studied traditional handicrafts popular in the tribal areas (Żiāʾpur, pp. 34-36). His series of artworks on “Tribal women of Southern Iran” (Figure 3) is especially significant. Ātaškada-ye ḵāmuš (The silent fire temple; Figure 4), his second poetry collection, with 28 poems, was published in 1964. Moḥammad ʿAli Sepānlu in his commentary, while maintaining a critical outlook on the collection, credited Sheybani as an avant-garde poet of yesterday who appears to be even more modern today (Sepānlu, p. 13).
In 1972 Sheybani traveled to France to further his studies in cinematography and receive practical training in television production. Returning to Iran in 1975 he began teaching at the Faculty of Dramatic Arts affiliated to the Ministry of Culture and Art and simultaneously directed a number of films produced by the Ministry and the Iranian TV (Bābāčāhi, 2004, p. 10; Figure 5). Sarābhā-ye kaviri (The desert mirages; Figure 6), his third collection of poems, was published in 1976.
After the Islamic Revolution of 1979 Sheybani spent most of his time abroad and exhibited his works in Italy, Canada, France, as well as Iran and other countries (Sāl-šomār-e zendegi-e Manučehr Šeybāni, p. 8; Ṣobḥi, 2010, p. 16; idem, 2004, p. 48). Following a prolonged struggle, he succumbed to cancer in Tehran on 9 November 1991.
Poetry. Although Sheybani is regarded among the very first proponents of Nima Yushij’s new approach to poetry, he maintained that he was more inspired by the poems of Abu’l-Qasem Lahuti, the political activist and Marxist poet (Sheybani, 2004, p. 25). Jaraqqa, his first poetry collection, is replete with socio-political overtones:
Bekeš dar kārḵāna ranj o zaḥmat
Ke arbābān be mehmān-ḵāna raqṣand>
Agar ḵˇāhi šavi yek-bāra rāḥat>
Gosal az dast-e ḵod yek-bāregi band>
Tow rā ḡayr az tow nabvad madadkār >
(Jarraqa, pp. 80-82)
You hustle and sweat in the factories>
As in the parlors the barons frolic>
To have your labors eased>
Shed your manacles at once>
You are the sole support to yourself
The recurring use of words that belong to the modern world (e.g., črāḡ-barq, piston, sigār) in the collection and its division into three thematic sections of ‘Realist’ (15 poems), ‘Idealist’ (13 poems), and ‘Fantasy’ (6 poems), as held by a critic, is evident of Sheybani’s familiarity with Western literature and modern poetry (Šafiʿi-Kadkani, p. 216). In addition to formats employed by the neo-traditionalists, such as čhārpāra (foursome) and its variations, and some innovative subspecies of the emerging canon of the modern poetry (see, e.g., “Hedia-ye mowjha” and “Kārgar-e pir”; Jaraqqa, 1945, pp. 102-4; and 30-32, respectively), Sheybani also experimented with broken meters in the collection. He employed two different meters in “Čādor” and at least four different meters in “Iran” (Jaraqqa, 1945, pp. 124-27; and 117-23, respectively). Sheybani’s proclivity to transcend Nima’s innovations is manifested in his incessant and calculated urge to manipulate established rhymes and rhythms; this, as held by critics, has often cost the work its poetical subtleties (Behbehāni, p. 76; Bābāčāhi, 1991, p. 14).
Ātaškada-ye ḵāmuš, Sheybani’s second collection of poetry, comprises two poems in čhārpāra, many more in Nimaic meters, and several in free verses. The first instance of such poems in the collection (“Ḥofra,” Ātaškada-ye ḵāmuš, 1964, pp. 109-11) dated back to 1946. In an unsubstantiated statement, Aḥmad Šāmlu ranked Sheybani as the very first practitioner of the genre of free verse in Iran (Šāmlu, p. 30). Most of the collection’s poems are charged with pre-Islamic mythological motifs (e.g., “Sorudi barā-ye Mitrā,” pp. 27-30), fear of death and loneliness (e.g., “Enteẓār,” pp. 35-38), and socio-cultural impediments (e.g., “Tafriḥgāh-e mā,” pp. 89-91).
The publication in 1976 of the third collection, Sarābhā-ye kaviri, after a long period of silence, reaffirmed free verse as Sheybani’s genre of choice in poetry. Love, bordering on the erotic, appears as a recurrent motif in most of the poems, with desert sceneries always lurking at the background rendering the poems as more or less identical. Some critics regarded this collection as Sheybani’s best literary oeuvre (Behbehāni, p. 77; Šāhroḵtāš, pp. 116-18). He is also considered one of the country’s earliest modern dramatist poets, whose compositions are more accommodating, often at the expense of poetic merits, to performance before an audience than to print distribution; this characteristic that not only displays his lifetime engagement with dramatic arts, but may also help the readers to better appreciate the unconventional language and structure by which his poetry is recognized (Nuriʿlāʾ, pp. 394-99).
Barāmad hami ṭalāya-ye u>
Bekubid, bekubid, ḡolāmān!
davāl bar dohol-hā
Zanid pardahā rā, ze darhā, be bālā
Barāmād, be eyvān, hami ṭalāya-ye u
Be pišgāh-e ḥosnaš, be ḵāk čehreh sāʾid
Be gerd-e u darāʾid …
(“Bāzgašt, ”Ātaškada-ye ḵāmuš, p. 46)
He has appeared on the horizon
Beat, O, slave boys, beat
With sticks on drums,
Raise the door screens
He has appeared on the veranda.
O, slave girls,
Bow to earth in awe of his beauty
In addition to his published works, Sheybani wrote a number of unpublished poems, plays, and screenplays, produced a number of movies, and collaborated in the production of several ballets. His opera Delāvar-e Sahand was staged in the opera hall of Tālār-e Rudaki (Nuriʿlāʾ, p. 398).
Painting and dramatic arts. Sheybani was one of the pioneers of modern painting in Iran. Notwithstanding his familiarity with classical schools of painting, Sheybani’s works reveal an artist with an incessant urge to explore new styles and forms of expression, remaining faithful to none for a long period of time. Although he experimented with an array of such distinct styles as expressionism, neo-realism, cubism and abstract painting, partly due to his long years of exposure to diverse schools of painting abroad, his works exhibit a visible gravitation toward figurative style. His artistic output includes numerous sketches and watercolor paintings from suburban landscapes of Paris and Prague. Characterized by spontaneous movement of lines, his work has been praised for mastery in color combination, drawing, and craftsmanship, showcasing his skill as an artist and a painter (Āḡdāšlu, pp. 6-7; Naṣir, p. 43-44).
Sheybani’s coherent and technically developed drawings of the southern regions of Iran are also characterized by his rendition of a sense of unity between the architectural elements and designs of the region (Żiāʾpur, pp. 35-36). His dramatic depiction of the circumstances of women in Iran in Gurestān (The graveyard), one of his best received paintings, earned him the praise of Simin Dānešvar and Jalāl Ā-e Aḥmad, the high-profile literary figures of the time. They published the painting in Naḡš o negār (No. 5, Bahār 1338 Š./Spring 1959, p. 29), a literary and art periodical they published (Mojābi, p. 2; Sāl-šomār-e zendegi-e Manučehr Šeybāni, p. 7). Gradually, however, more surreal elements were substituted in his paintings in place of the cohesion created by the unity of objects and colors, and these lessened the structural significance of his paintings (Naṣir, p. 44).
Sheybani has been praised for his mastery in color combination (Āḡdāšlu, p. 6), and the craftsmanship he exhibits in his sketches, which are characterized by spontaneous movement of lines and which showcase his skills as an artist and a painter (Naṣir, pp. 43-44).
Sheybani was the recipient of the 1958 Fine Arts Award of the First Tehran Biennale, and the 1977 Screenplay Award at Tus Festival for Sohrāb Tragedy. In 2004, on the occasion of Sheybani’s eightieth birthday, Manuchehr Sheybani Museum and Library was inaugurated at the historical House of Ehsān in Kāshān.
Jaraqqa (Scintillation, Tehran, 1945)
Ātaškada-ye ḵāmuš (The silent fire temple, Tehran, 1964)
Sarābhā-ye kaviri (The desert mirages, Tehran, 1976)
1958 Iran-Amercia Society
1963 Italian Cultural Society
1965 Tālar-e Iran
1965 Gallery Borghese
1970 Negār Gallery
1989 Seyhoun Gallery
1950 Venice Biennale
1950 Il Camino Gallery, Rome
1952 Frascati International Art Fair, Rome
1953 Sāzemān-e Javānān Tehran
1955 Ankara Conservatory
1955 Istanbul Academy of Fine Arts
1958 First Tehran Biennale
1958 Iranian Oil Company Traveling Art Exhibit
1964 Tālār-e Iran
1972 La Maison des Artistes, Paris
1983 La Maison des Artistes, Paris
Āydin Āḡdāšlu, “Naqqāš-šāʾer-e šegeft,” Kāj, 11-12, Pāʾiz-Zemestān 1383 Š./Fall 2004-Winter 2005, pp. 6-7.
Qeyṣar Aminpur, Sonnat o nowāvari dar šeʿr-e moʿāṣer, Tehran, 2004.
ʿAli Bābāčāhi, “Šāʿeri now-āvar o modern,” Ādina, 65-66, Āḏar-Dey 1370 Š./December 1991-January 1992, pp.13-15.
Idem, “Šenās-nama va šeʿr-e Manučehr Šeybāni,” Kāj 11-12, Pāʾiz-Zemestān 1383 Š./Fall 2004-Winter 2005, pp. 8-34.
Simin Behbehāni, “Biā tā barārim dasti,” Gowharān 23-24, Bahār 1389 Š./Spring 2010, pp. 74-80.
Manṣura Ḥosayni, “Seyr-e taḥavvolāt-e honarhā-ye taṣviri dar biography-e Manučehr Šeybāni,” Kāj 11-12, Pāʾiz-Zemestān 1383 Š./Fall 2004-Winter 2005, pp. 35-38.
Morteżā Kāḵi, “Bas šamʿ-e nim-suḵta časbida bar tanaš,” Gowharān 23-24, Bahār 1389 Š./Spring 2010, pp. 64-66.
Javād Mojābi, “Manučehr Šeybāni, honarmandi čand sāḥati,” Tandis 175, Ḵordād 1389 Š./June 2010, pp. 2-3.
Saʿid Nafisi, “Jaraqqa: Manučehr Šeybāni,” Payām-e now 2/5, Farvardin 1325 Š./March 1946, pp. 121-22.
ʿAli Naṣir, “Tarḥi az zendegi-e yek naqqāš,” Kāj 11-12, Pāʾiz-Zemestān 1383 Š./Fall 2004-Winter 2005, pp. 42-44.
Esmāʿil Nuriʿalāʾ, Ṣovar o asbāb dar šeʿr-e emruz-e Iran, Tehran, 1969.
Thomas M. Ricks, ed., Critical Perspectives on Modern Persian Literature, Washington D.C., 1984, pp. 8-25.
Moḥammad Reżā Šafiʿi Kadkani, Bā čerāḡ o āiyna: dar jost-o-ju-ye rišahā-ye taḥavvol-e šeʿr-e moʿāṣer, Tehran, 2011.
Šahrām Šāhroḵtāš, “Jerāḥat-e ʿoryān-e ḵāk,” Gowharān 23-24, Bahār 1389 Š./Spring 2010, pp. 111-18.
Moḥammad Šams-e Langarudi, Tāriḵ-e taḥlili-e šeʿr-e now (Modern poetry: an analytical history), 4 vols, Tehran, 1999.
Aḥmad Šāmlu, “Ba yād-e Manučehr Šeybāni,” Zenehrud 32, Pāʾiz 1383 Š./Autumn 2004, pp. 29-31.
“Sāl-šomār-e zendegi-e Manučehr Šeybāni,” Gowharān 23-24, Bahār 1389 Š./Spring 2010, pp. 7-9.
Moḥammad Šarifi, “Manučehr Šeybāni,̤” Farhang-e adabiyāt-e fārsi, Tehran, 2009, p. 925.
Moḥammad ʿAli Sepānlu, “Šeybāni-e Ātaškada-ye rowšan,” Ādina 65-66, Āḏar-Dey 1370 Š./January-February 1991, pp. 12-13.
Sohrāb Sepehri, Hanuz dar safaram: šeʿrhā o yād-dāšthā-ye montašer našoda az Sohrāb Sepehri, ed., Paridoḵot Sepehri, Tehran, 2001.
Manučehr Šeybāni, “Šāʿer dar čahār divāri-e ʿozlatgāhaš,” Zenehrud 32, Pāʾiz 1383 Š./Autumn 2004, pp. 15-28.
Idem, “Naqqaš-e šāḵahā o panjarahā: namāyešgāh-e Sohrāb Seperhi dar talār-e Reżā ʿAbbāsi,” in Moʿarrefi o šenāḵt-e Sohrāb Sepehri, ed., Šahnāz Morādi-Kuči, Tehran, 2001, pp. 313-14.
Paridoḵt Ṣobḥi (Šeybāni), “Bedrud bā honarmandi bozorg,” Gowharān 23-24, Bahār 1389 Š./Spring 2010, pp. 14-16.
Idem, “Manučehr Šeybāni az zabān-e Pari Šeybāni,” Kāj, 11-12, Pāʾiz-Zemestān 1383 Š./Fall 2004-Winter 2005, pp. 46-49.
Jalil Żiāʾpur, “Naqqāš-e tarkib o ensejām,” Zenehrud, 32, Pāʾiz 1383 Š./Autumn 2004, pp. 33-37.
Originally Published: January 1, 2000
Last Updated: July 1, 2013