An Interview with Tajik Poet Rustam Ajami

This interview was conducted by Kelly Skinner via email in Tajik and then translated into English. The author is not a professional translator nor a native Tajik speaker; please excuse any errors. Thank you to the OMER team for translation assistance.

Дар соли ду ҳазору шонздаҳ шумо беҳтарин шоири ҷавон шинохта шудед. Барои кадом китоб ё шеъри шумо буд?

Ҳар 5 сол як маротиба аз тарафи Иттифоқи нависандагони Тоҷикистон дар яке аз шаҳрҳои Тоҷикистон «Машварати ҷумҳуриявии адибони ҷавон» баргузор мешавад. Дар ин машварат осори ҷавонони тоҷик аз саросари Тоҷикистон  дар бахшҳои назм-( шеър), наср, нақди адабӣ, адабиётшиносӣ, адабиёти кудакона ва ….мавриди арзёбии доварон қарор мегирад. Дар соли 2016 ман ба ин озмўн роҳхат ёфта будам ва ашъорам дар ин сол дар байни ширкаткунандагон болотарин имтиёзро ба даст оварда буд ва ба унвони беҳтарин шеър ва шоири ҷавон аз назари доварон баргузида шуд. Ҳадаф аз баргузории ин машвират кашфи истеъдодҳои ҷавон ва роҳхат ёфтан барои узвият шудан. дар Иттифоқи нависандагони Тоҷикистон ва нашри шеърҳояшон аст, ки банда низ ба ҳамин далeл ҳам узви Иттифоқи нависандагон шудам ҳам маҷмуъаи шеърам ба номи “Тоҷикистон қалби ман аст” аз тарафи Иттифоқи нависандагон ба нашр расид.

Шеъри шумо чӣ мавзуъотеро дар бар мегирад?

Мавзўъоти шеъри ман ба густардагии таҷрибаҳои ман аз зиндагӣ аст. Зиндагӣ саршор аз таҷрибаҳои тoзаву нав аст. Ман саъй мекунам ин таҷриба ва эҳсосро дар қолаби шеър баён кунам. Ба ҳамин далел мaвзўоти  ашъори ман якнавохту якранг нестанд ва мавзўоти гуногуни зиндагиро фаро мегиранд.

Каме дар бораи раванди навиштани Каме дар бораи раванди навиштани худ сӯҳбат кунед. Шеърро чӣ гуна оғоз мекунед? Шеърҳои худро чӣ гуна таҳрир мекунед?

Ман ҳамеша саъй кардам, ки шеър суроғи ман ояд то ман суроғи шеър равам. Маъмулан шеър қабл аз ин ки, рўи коғаз оварда шавад дар зеҳни ман нақш мегирад сипас дарахти ин ида ва фикр дар руйи коғаз шоху барг мегирад. Илҳоми ман дар навиштан ва суроиши шеър ағлаб ҳисси ҷолиб ва дўстдоштанӣ аз як иттифоқ ё таҷриба аз гушаи табиат ё зиндагӣ аст. Ин ҳис ва нигоҳи ҷолиб нисбат ба ин падида ва таҷрибаҳои ҳаёт боиси суроиши шеър дар ман мешавад. Бархе аз шеърҳоям баъд аз суроиш таҳрир мешаванд бархе низ ба ҳамон шакли навишта боқӣ мемонанд.


Дар китоби шумо; Ҷумҳурии ғамгини ман, дар бораи Самарқанду Бухоро бисёр сухан меравад. Чаро имрӯз Самарқанду Бухоро барои тоҷикон муҳиманд?

Самарқанду Бухоро на танҳо барои ҳар форсизабон балки барои ҳар шахсе, ки ба илму дониш эҳтиром қоил аст муҳим аст. Чаро, ки ин ду шаҳр дар замони Исмоили Сомонӣ яке аз боргоҳи дурахшони илму адаб буд. Дар домони Самарқанду Бухоро дар тули таърих олимон ва донишмандони зиёдe парвариш ёфтаву рушд кардаанд, ки имрўз чеҳраи ҷаҳонӣ доранд ва дар саросари ҷаҳон шинохта шудаву мавриди эҳтиром ҳастанд. Илова бар ин таърихи шеъри классики форсӣ аз ин ду шаҳр оғоз меёбад ва Абуабдуллоҳи Рўдакӣ; падари шеъри форсӣ низ аз ин иқлим аст. 

Шоири дӯстдоштаи шумо кист?

Шеъри ҳар шоир лаззату зебоии худро дорад; масалан шеъри Саъдӣ бо зарофати забоние, ки дорад маро ба ёди хотираҳои ширин меандозад; ва Ҳофиз бо таваҷҷўҳ бо истифода аз анвоъи орояҳои адабӣ, ки шеърашро ҳамчун ойнаи роз кардааст ба мухотаб ҳисси ҳаяҷону шӯрангезӣ мебахшад ва ҳамчунин ашъори шоирони дигар. Шояд ба ҳамин далел бошад, ки ман ҳамеша шeфтаи шеъри тамоми шоирони хуб ҳастам аммо аз Саъдӣ, Ҳофиз, Мавлоно – Румӣ лаззати бештар мебарам.

Намунае аз шеърҳои Рустами Аҷамӣ:

Гирифта буд дилат, хостӣ сафар биравӣ,

Сафар ба дуртарин шаҳр бехабар биравӣ.

Бигу парандаи ошиқ – бигу, чи мешуд агар?

Аз ин қафас бипарӣ, лонаи дигар биравӣ.

Раҳо шавӣ чу насими саҳар ба кӯҳу камар,

Шабиҳи боди ғамин дуру дуртар биравӣ.

Раҳо шавӣ, биравӣ, мисли ҷӯйҳои равон,

Ба ҳар куҷо, ки дилат хост, дар ба дар биравӣ.

Чунон, ки аз ту бирӯяд ба ҳар куҷо рӯдӣ,

Чу Рӯдакӣ шавию ҳамчу шеъри тар биравӣ.

Сипас чу ҷангали гирён ба ашки ҳар борон,

Шабиҳи абри равон бо меҳи саҳар биравӣ.

Ҷаҳон чӣ дошт ба ҷуз хотироти барги хазон?

Хушо ба ҳоли ту аз ин хазон агар биравӣ…

Линки китоби «Ҷумҳурии ғамгини ман» дар сойти Oмозун:

In 2016, you were named best young poet. What book or poem did you win this award for?

Every five years, the Union of Writers of the Republic of Tajikistan organizes a “Conference of Young Authors” in one of the cities of Tajikistan. At this conference, works of Tajik youth from all over the country are evaluated by judges in the following categories: poetry, prose, literary criticism, literary studies, children’s literature, etcetera. In 2016, I took part in the competition and in this year my poems and myself, among all the participants, received the highest distinctions of being named the best poem and the best young poet by the judges. The purpose of holding this conference is to discover young talents and qualify them for membership in the Writers’ Union of Tajikistan and publish their poems. For this reason, I became a member of the Writers’ Union, and my collection “Tajikistan is my heart” was published by the Writers’ Union.

What are the themes of your poems?

The themes of my poems speak to the extent of my experiences in life. Life is full of new and fresh experiences. I try to express experience and feeling in the form of a poem. For the same reason, the subjects of my poems are not uniform and they cover a diverse range of life themes.

Talk a little bit about your writing process. How do you start a poem? How do you edit your poems?

I always have endeavored that a poem comes to me rather than me going to look for it. Usually, before a poem is written down, it first takes shape in my mind. Then, the sapling of this inspiration is planted on paper, subsequently growing branches and leaves. My inspiration for writing and composing poetry often comes from intriguing and delightful feelings I have from an event or a life experience. Feelings or captivating glances at a phenomenon, along with life experiences, is what causes me to compose poetry.  Some of my poems need to be revised after writing while some remain in the same written form.

Your book, My Sorrowful Republic, talks about the cities of Samarkand and Bukhara. Why are Samarkand and Bukhara important to Tajiks today?

Samarkand and Bukhara are not only important for any Persian-speaker but also for any person who respects science and knowledge. This is because these two cities, in the time Ismoil Somoni, were among the prominent centers of science and literature. In the domain of Samarkand and Bukhara, throughout history, scientists and scholars who today are known and respected all over the world flourished and thrived. In addition, the history of classical Persian Poetry begins in these two cities and ‘Abu’ Abdullah Rudaki, the father of Persian Poetry is also from this region.

Who is your favorite poet?

Every poet’s poem has its own delight and beauty; for example, Sa’adi’s poetry has a linguistic elegance which brings back sweet memories; Hafiz is interested in using a variety of literary ornaments to compose his poems, giving a sense of excitement and devotion to his verse; poetry of others likewise has its own beauties. It is probably for this reason that I am fond of all poets, but I most enjoy the works of Sa’di, Hafiz, and Mawlana Rumi.

An example of a poem of Rustam Ajami:

It took your heart, the desire to travel,

Travel to the farthest city unaware

Speak bird in love- speak, what if?

Fly from this cage, to go to another nest

Get rid of it like the morning breeze to the mountain range

Like a sad breeze you go farther and farther

You get free, you go, like flowing streams

To anywhere you want, you go door to door

It is as if in every place a mountain stream branches off you

You become like Rudaki and flow like a fresh poem

Then like a forest weeping tears of every rainfall,

Like a moving cloud, you go with a morning mist.

What did the world have besides the memories of the Autumn leaves?

You are lucky if you leave from this Autumn.

Link to Rustam Ajami’s book, My Sorrowful Republic published in Tajik and Farsi:

Book Review for Contested Lands: A History of the Middle East since the First World War, T.G. Fraser

By Juliet O’Brien

In under 250 pages, T.G. Fraser manages to offer a concise yet thorough account of history in the Middle East from the First World War to the present. In Contested Lands, Fraser focusses particularly on the interventions and interactions of European powers with the region, yet he avoids describing every major event through a Eurocentric prism. Contested Lands conveys the emergent tensions brought about by new political, military, economic, and social realities in the context of an increasingly globalised world. The strengths of Fraser’s work lie in its organisation, its succinct references to nearly every key political figure, and its particularly attentive coverage of dynamics in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, from its inception to the present. There are points, however, where overly specific battle descriptions make Contested Lands read more like a military history than a general historical survey, and where insufficient detail makes portions of the book read like a laundry list of important players.

Fraser employs an intuitive division of the book into eleven chapters. They range from “The Middle East on the Eve of War,” which looks at the pre-World War I geopolitical context, to “The Middle East in Turmoil,” which takes a whirlwind look at the post-Oslo period and finishes by discussing the most recent escalation of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict in 2021. He ensures equal treatment of each period and, notably, tries to survey the entire region within each chapter. Despite effective use of subtitles, there are points within each chapter when the jump to a different country or event can feel abrupt. This tactic, however, also serves to highlight just how many contexts were disrupted and damaged by European imperialism in the wake of the Ottoman Empire’s dissolution.

Fraser offers an impressive treatment of nearly every major player in both imperial and local affairs. However, these figures skew towards the high-ranking military and political officials, leaving little room for other individuals that would be important in “a history of the Middle East since the First World War.” Some individuals break through this tendency and achieve mention in the book, including Egyptian feminist advocate Huda Shaarawi. Yet in a book that seeks to cover over 100 years of often-turbulent history in just over double that number of pages, Fraser emphasises concrete battles, negotiations, and political changes.

Perhaps the place where Contested Lands shines the most is in its extensive descriptions of the changing dynamics in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. T.G. Fraser’s historical expertise paints a more comprehensive and clear picture of this issue—one that was, indeed, so central to Arab nationalism, European imperial involvement, and American engagement in the region—than would be expected in a relatively brief historical survey. Fraser portrays differing points of view on this issue extremely effectively, allowing readers to develop their own nuanced understandings.

Fraser should also be commended for his descriptions of military manoeuvres and strategy from multiple perspectives. He does this particularly well in his chapter, “The Second World War and the Middle East,” when detailing major battles in the North African theatre, as well as in “From War to War,” when discussing the 1967 Six Day War. However, for the purposes of writing a general overview of the region over such a long period, readers may question the value of including the names of specific commanders or tactical manoeuvres. This space may have been more effectively used throughout the book to pay more attention to non-elite sources, for example.

Contested Lands is a thorough and, indeed, riveting account of the major historical developments in the Middle East following World War I. Using incisive language, T.G. Fraser looks at both the local and the global levels to develop a clear picture of a region that so much scholarship has tended to essentialise. This book would offer a brief yet straightforward introduction to Middle Eastern history and politics for unfamiliar individuals, but it would also be useful to students and researchers wishing to contextualise nation-specific or region-specific events within the wider global system. The Oxford Middle East Review would like to thank T.G. Fraser for his work, and Haus Publishing for coordinating with us and giving us the opportunity to review Contested Lands.

About the author of Contested Lands: T.G. Fraser is emeritus professor at Ulster University and the author of Chaim Weitzmann: The Zionist Dream (2009) and, with Andrew Mango and Robert McNamara, The Makers of the Modern Middle East (2015).*
*excerpt from back flap of Contested Lands

What Remains is never quite Real

By Oisín Breen

Once, in my old house in Damascus,
We knew it as the Pink House,
I was visited by a young American.

And once, when the boiler rumbled, as it did, daily,
He threw me beneath my bed at a bone-shattering pace,
To save me from a phantasm, that hounded him.

He had travelled 7,447 miles on the back of an absurd vision,
Of misdirected violence, searching for his innermost self,
Which he found when he shed white phosphorous tears.

He took to frequenting the bars of old Damascus, too,
Wearing a corset of spent uranium shells,
Polka-dotted in blood.

He hoped forgetfulness might return whiteness to his teeth,
It did not, and he never could forget,
For in Fallujah he painted a mausoleum of Dali paintings.

It shook him, split him into two sherds of porcelain,
The first, a black shadow on sandstone walls,
The second, a man, who knew he must not forget.

Artist: Maher Salma
E-mail: mahersalma@gmail.com
Facebook page: www.facebook.com/MaherSalmaVisualArtist

About the Author:
A poet, part-time academic in narratological complexity, and financial journalist, Dublin born Oisín Breen‘s widely reviewed debut collection, ‘Flowers, all sorts in blossom, figs, berries, and fruits, forgotten’ was released Mar. 2020. Breen has been published in a number of journals, including About Place, the Blue Nib, Books Ireland, the Seattle Star, Modern Literature, La Piccioletta Barca, the Bosphorus Review of Books, the Kleksograph, In Parentheses, the Madrigal, and Dreich magazine.
Twitter: @Breen
Full Bio: https://www.pw.org/directory/writers/oisin_breen