Minimalist Iranian Writing: Rasool Yoonan


Walking in the Sky

“There’s no way back.”
“What do you mean?”
“Don’t you see everything’s covered in fog?”
“Well, I’m going back.”

He was a stubborn, hard-headed person. The rest of the climbers didn’t try to stop him. The man picked up his pack and set out. He’d gone a few steps when, without realizing it, he walked out into the sky.

(Translated from the blog of Rasool Yoonan by M. Quay)

Rasool Yoonan is a contemporary Iranian-Azeri writer who composes minimalist poems and pieces of fiction. He summarizes his approach to poetry with a quote from Coleridge: “[Poetry] is the best words in their best order.”

While it is not typical for this blog to simply reproduce the translations of others, these poems, which appeared this month in Asymptote Journal, are too delightful not to share! In both languages they are breezy yet impactful, and Siavash Saadlou’s translations are quite an achievement.

Six Poems

Rasool Yoonan


With poetry and cigarettes
I go to war against inequalities.

I am an absurd Don Quixote who,
instead of lance and helmet,
has a pencil in his hand and a saucepan on his head.

Take a photo of me as a keepsake;
I am the human of the 21st century!


Summer was a cool watermelon,
sliced, on the plate of noon.

They ate.
We watched.

They were rich.
We, poor.


Behnam, Mehrdad, and I
have come to this remote coffeehouse
to take revenge.

Life has scarred us,
but neither James Dean nor John Wayne enters.

Tough luck!

We get angry.
We break into tears, just so we have broken something,
and then fire up in our dreams,
but only three cigarettes are lighted on our lips.


I’ve never seen any ashes not going with the wind.
Your corpse, too, won’t remain on the ground my friend.
Put back the hive you stole from someone else’s dream.
Give back the naan you stole from others.
What is not yours
is not yours.
Don’t live at all costs!
Don’t worry;
your corpse won’t remain on the ground.
You die, we’ll bury you!


By the seaside,
if you’re in love, you’ll fall deeper.
And if crazy, you’ll go crazier.

This is the sea’s nature;
it gives everything an immensity of lunacy.

Poets won’t make it back in one piece
from beach cities.


You go to Boston,
I don’t know where that is and I feel blue.
You go to Gabbata,
I don’t know where that is and I feel blue.

Wherever you go and I’ve never heard of it,
I feel blue.

I don’t know why I feel that distant and obscure roads
are located in the realm of death!

I’m not saying, “Don’t travel.”
Do travel, but to Tabriz, Ahwaz,
or wherever else you can come back from on a late-night bus.

Trusting airplanes is a tricky business.
they turn people into birds,
and I don’t remember a swallow coming back from Boston,
or a crane coming back from Gabbata.

translated from the Persian by Siavash Saadlou

Original Persian can be found on Asymptote, where the translations first appeared:


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