chapter  3
Killed by love: ‘Eshqi revised – an Iranian poet’s quest for modernization SAHAR ALLAMEZADE
Pages 23

In a café located at the newly established European-style Lalehzar Avenue in Tehran, strewn with cabarets, cinemas, bars, and the like, Saeed Nafisi (18961966), a well-known scholar and writer, met the young Mohammad-Reza Mirzadeh-‘Eshqi (1894-1924), a little-known passionate poet and essayist, for the first time, and expressed his sentiments upon seeing ‘Eshqi in these words:

What struck me as new in ‘Eshqi’s appearance was the fact that he had let his hair grow out around his ears, neck, and head, in a way that the back of his head was all covered. At that time some European artists, especially in France, mostly painters and musicians, groomed their hair in the same fashion. This indicated that ‘Eshqi insisted upon everyone knowing that he was a poet. Alas, nobody at that time in Iran knew that this was the sign of a poet.2

Nafisi’s opinion, thirty-five years after ‘Eshqi’s death, which was published in an article called “Mirzadeh-‘Eshqi Sha’er-e Melli va Nevisandeh-ye Mobarez” (Mirzadeh-‘Eshqi; The National Poet and Rebel Author), echoes a sense of regret and aggrandizement at the same time.3 Nafisi’s opinion reveals that ‘Eshqi’s poetic ingenuity was not recognized by his contemporaries and even demonstrates that the later generations of critics and intellectuals came only to appreciate the ardent nationalism of the slain poet’s contribution to the process of modernity and not much else.4 In “Marg-e ‘Eshqi” (‘Eshqi’s Death), which could be considered as an obituary, Mohammad-Taqi Bahar (1886-1951), a prominent poet, journalist, and a close friend of ‘Eshqi at the time, despite his initial reluctance due to ‘Eshqi’s politics and works, similar to Nafisi’s insinuated hesitation in calling ‘Eshqi a poet, expressed his sorrow emphatically.5 In a three-line elegy, Bahar not only laments the young man’s murder, but in a “somewhat exaggerated assessment,” in the words of Ahmad Karimi-Hakkak, confirms that she’r-e now (New Poetry), ‘Eshqi’s innovation, had also died with him.6 Bahar’s exaggerated sentiments, however, as Karimi-Hakkak claims, reflect his own “conservative agenda for poetic change” that did not allow for the kind of experimentation that ‘Eshqi espoused.7 ‘Eshqi was shot in the morning on July 3, 1923, in his home, ending his tumultuous and short life. His untimely and unfortunate death stirred many