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Zarrin



Poet Ali Zarrin muses on America in 'The Book of I'

JEN GRAVES; The News Tribune

On Sept. 11, 2001, Ali Zarrin felt that people began to see a resemblance between him and a hijacker, and the old fear crept back into his heart.

He finds American foreign policy hypocritical but is increasingly afraid to say so for fear of being labeled anti-American or worse.

"Coming from Iran, where there was a secret police and an inquisition, it's like déjà vu," Zarrin said. "Stifled, stagnation, strangulation. In a sense, I think the terrorists have won. We're living in fear."

Zarrin, a poet, has been an American citizen since 1976, six years after he immigrated from Iran, where his friends have been arrested and fellow poets silenced. He will read from his new book, "The Book of I," at Tacoma's Antique Sandwich Company at 7 p.m. Thursday.

Before Sept. 11, he wrote the poem that made his name, "Made You Mine, America," a tale of his immigration that was anthologized in collections of Asian American poetry.

"The Book of I" is more critical of his adopted country.

"But it isn't accepting cynicism as an option," said Tacoma poet and artist Dean Brink, who organized the monthly Open Mic for Peace and Social Justice at the Antique Sandwich Company, and who invited Zarrin. The two met when Zarrin was completing his Ph.D. at the University of Washington.

Now, Zarrin, a father of two teenage sons, lives in Littleton, Colo., and teaches world literature at Regis University in Denver. His early poetry was influenced by Persian classical writers such as Rumi, Hafez and Khayyam, but soon after he came to the United States, he met American beat poets such as Allen Ginsberg and Lawrence Ferlinghetti.

The echoes of Ginsberg's "Howl" sound behind Zarrin's exclamatory "Made You Mine, America" and "The Book of I."

"You can't turn me down/I gave you my youth/walking and driving Colfax nights long/I came with hate/but now/I love you/ America."

Those are the final lines of "Made You Mine." "The Book of I" shouts: "Quit making everyone white!/Making everyone in the world think like you!/America, you let everyone be who they are."

Zarrin is against the war in Iraq and questions why the United States is allied with Saudi Arabia, where women have fewer rights than they do in "Axis of Evil" Iran, he said. He is chilled by what he sees as an ongoing civil war over American ideology between fundamentalists and progressives.

But he has not been to Iran in 32 years.

"This is the only home I know," he said. "There is no home to go back to. ... I'm a poet, and I want to talk about poetry, but I have to talk about politics. It's the zeitgeist."

Jen Graves: 253-597-8568
jen.graves@mail.tribnet.com

If you go

What: Reading by poet Ali Zarrin

When: 7 p.m. Thursday

Where: Antique Sandwich Company, 5102 N. Pearl St., Tacoma

Admission: Free

Information: 253-752-4069


(Published 2:35AM, March 2nd, 2004)



 




 

 

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