— Rosanna Warren ( Commenting on Tabatabai's new poetry collection UZUNBURUN ( The Pen and Anvil Press)
Doug Holder: You are an accomplished poet, but you are also an accomplished boxer. Is this a surprise to many people?
Sassan Tabatatbai. To most people it is a surprise. I think they consider poetry to be soft and emotional and boxing the complete opposite. But they have a lot in common. There is something philosophical about boxing. Something that teaches you about yourself. There is a kind of deep introspection that you can get from both poetry and boxing. Nabokov took boxing lessons for instance.
DH: You were poetry editor for News from The Republic of Letters founded by the acclaimed writer Saul Bellow at Boston University. How was it working with the man?
ST: I got introduced to Bellows by some of my old professors, and that is how I got involved with the magazine. When I started working with Bellows--it was basically about running things by him for his approval. He was still sharp at that time. He kind of deteriorated slowly over time. He seemed to have a very piercing look. When he looked at you, it was as if he was formulating one of his characters. But he was always very sharp with details. Even when he got older he was still on top of all the material he read in the past.
DH: Your grandfather served in the Iranian army reaching the rank of general, until 1979--the time of the Islamic Revolution. You are involved in a project translating his memoirs. Talk about this.
sifting its way through the orange grove,
broken by dusk and distance, calling
me back to the villa on the hill
away from my August friends:
local boys who didn’t need sunscreen,
who caught water snakes with their bare hands
and carried frogs in their pants pockets.
Inside the screened porch, safe
from mosquitoes and night sounds,
glowing comfort awaited:
smell of fried garlic, rattle of dice
rolling on the wooden backgammon board,
and moist, sticky tiles under my bare feet.
my little sister asleep,
I listened to the ebb and flow
of adult conversations downstairs,
cornices of excitement followed by lulls
filled with the sea’s silence, distant
waves crashing, mute on the deserted shore.
bruise in New England, I can still
taste the air of a Caspian summer,
heavy with humidity and salt.
Strange, that as time thickens, the distance
between us shrinks.