The annual poetry congress in Tehran, held at the beginning of July, included what state-owned or controlled media have described as an “historic literary event,” which, according to one establishment literary commentator, Muhammad-Ali Mujahedi, electrified those present.
The “event” was the public reading of a new ghazal (sonnet) by “Supreme Guide” Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, whose poetical ambitions date back to his early youth more than 60 years ago. He has often said that he wished he had spent more time and energy on his poetry rather than on politics, and in anecdotal accounts of his life has cast himself as a disciple of such great contemporary classicist Persian poets as Amiri Firuzkuhi and Muhammad Qahreman, not to mention the great Mohammad-Hussein Shahriar and Rahi Mo’ayyeri.
However, still unsure of how his poetry might be received, Khamenei — who uses “Amin” as his literary sobriquet (takhallos in Arabic) — has always shied away from publishing a diwan or even reciting his poems in public. But because few poets could resist the temptation of reading their work to others, the “Supreme Guide” holds occasional private recitals of his poetry for a handful of confidants who have sworn never to reveal to others what they have heard or try to put it into print.
Thus, the event was a rare occasion, when Khamenei overcame his fear of not pleasing an audience and agreed to have his latest work recited to a group of fellow poets and aspiring poets.