Where Things Are
* "An Iranian painting for you. This woman is the symbol of New year : Spring, flower , apple , mirro, etc." Note form Farideh Hasanzadeh.
Susan, my dear —
I send you a part of my long interview with Iranian poet Maryam Ala Amjadi. I hope you will find it interesting. She is only 22 years old and published her first book of poetry when she was 16 years old —
Farideh Hasanzadeh (Mostafavi) is an Iranian poet, translator and freelance journalist. Her first book of poetry was published when she was twenty-two. Her poems appear in the anthologies Contemporary Women Poets of Iran and Anthology of Best Women Poets. She writes regularly for Golestaneh, Iran News, Jamejam and many literary magazines. Her anthology Contemporary American Poetry will appear in 2007. She is the author of The Last Night with Sylvia Plath: Essays
FROM AN INTERVIEW WITH MARYAM ALA AMJADI
Farideh: Let's admit that finding solitude for a man to stay at home and write is as natural, as for a woman to peel onion in the kitchen. Even in societies where equality is not the slogan among men and women, she feels uneasy with the circumstances when she sits behind the desk to write, she feels unusual, as if she has betrayed others. Her conscious suffers from the guilt that she might have robbed others' rights. If you do not agree with this statement, then, would you please tell us what is the difference between Women's Literature and Men's Literature?
Maryam: I am still living with my parents, so naturally my mother or some other person feels this weight upon her shoulders. Of course as a girl and member of the family I contribute a part of my time to housework and a little cooking, but really it has never been much more than a troublesome break time to me, because even then I sense anger in myself when I have to tear myself away from what I am writing or reading, when I am called, "Maria come do this and that," I keep asking myself why? Is it because I am a girl? Why can't the boys do it as well as me and maybe even better?! But even then I get up and go almost feeling that it is my duty to contribute to housework and then I am angry with myself for feeling that way, I feel that I am wasting my time on something uncreative, something that would not teach me anything new about life but really it never takes that long and then fortunately I am back to my reading and writing or whatever.
So you see, my friends and foes have never judged me this way, "Is her cooking as good as her poetry?" or "Does she wipe her kitchen floor of oil stains with the same delicacy that she wipes her face of tears?"
But I have often thought about it, which one is better, making a jar of jam or writing an essay on the Metaphysical poets?
And each time I find that my question is wrongly posed.
I feel disappointed when I read that George Eliot stopped her pen to take care of her father or Charlotte Bronte put away her book to peel the eyes out of potatoes.
In her controversial book "A Room of One's Own," Virginia Woolf says that she believes Shakespeare had a poet sister who never wrote a word and died quite young, she says that Shakespeare's dead sister is the buried alive poet and writer in every woman.
"She lives in you and me and in many other women who are not here tonight, for they are washing dishes and putting the children to bed," she says.
"Yes, that's it," I say to myself. That's why many women have rebelled against marriage, that's why some dedicate their whole lives to their profession and choose isolation.
But aren't they missing something in this self exile from a part of life? I ask myself.
Because "When you turn on the lights in one place, then be sure that you have turned them off in another," this is a logical principle.
But really, do I have a right to think that way? I who don't know what it is to be busy with housework all day long, to cook, to scrub and wipe and wash and feed the children and then tuck them in bed and when all is done, to have a moment of your own if not even a room of your own to read or write? And even if you don't do all this then it seems that you are writing, reading and cherishing yourself at the expense of some other's rights. I don't know. But you could look at it in another way too. Take the kitchen for example. It is a complete world by itself. The kitchen is an organic world of order and creation; it is the entire world on a micro scale. Everything is there, the flavors to spice up life, tools to create, to sense, to taste and to do. It is the place where we create, break, distort, restore and save things and with them concepts that could symbolize life. It's where we can admire or disappoint ourselves. "A good woman knows where everything is in her house," I used to hear my dear grandmother say. And really, I feel viciously happy when I see that my brother does not know where to look for some of his things in the house. I just love it, when this question is shouted, "Mom, where are my socks? "I tell myself with a smile: "Yes, I am a woman, I know where everything is. I just have to stretch out my hand with my eyes closed and I'll find it."
That's a woman, she just knows where things are, where happiness is, where you can find peace and harmony. It's in her nature. She would just have to take all these out of the cupboard she once put them in.
And when she cooks as Gunter Gras says, she turns her emotions into food and places it on the table. So every time I try to peel an onion, I tell myself, "Perhaps you are being chastised for repressing your feminine sentiments for so long and not weeping at the right time, serves you right for being a conservative!"
About the second part of the question I believe that true literature is genderless though perhaps not sexless. There is a theory that says that all writers even the male, write with a feminine soul. After all the Muses were goddesses and not gods.
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