Roya on Iran & America: A Revolution On The Page: Finding Identity In Poetry

Roya Hakakian comparing the eloquence of Omar Khayyam and Hafez to American Roethke

NPR – “The effect of a great work of literature is often to unhinge its reader, to strip her of all previously cherished beliefs down to discomfiting nakedness. Roethke’s “Waltz” did just that. It abruptly unveiled to me everything that centuries of Persian poetry had not — to shift the focus from the outward life to the life at home. To portray the father, the most revered figure in the culture I knew, in a negative light — in essence, to question his credibility and authority. Roethke had pulled the pedestal from beneath the taboo.

Once, I arrived in America on an airplane. Later, I arrived deeper yet on the wings of Roethke’s verse. Here, no one was too sacred to be spared critical examination. Suddenly I had access to a whole new reservoir of writing material, and I knew freedom in its most tangible and consequential way.

Read and listen to it at NPR.org