Payam Feili is a gay Iranian poet who is blacklisted by the Iranian authorities. His poems are banned in Iran because he is gay. With no regard for content or style, the censors have completely blacklisted his works.
Payam Feili was born in 1985 in Kermanshah, a city in western Iran. His first book, The Sun's Platform, was published in Iran when he was nineteen. The book was heavily censored by the Ministry of Culture and Islamic Guidance. Subsequent works never emerged from the ministry with a seal of approval.
Well aware of the potential danger it posed, Payam started to publish his books outside Iran. He has a dozen collections of poetry that haven't yet seen the light of day. His latest book was a collection of love poetry called "White Field" which was published by Nogaam (New steps) an independent publisher in London. Now he wants to translate his work into English to find new audience and fight censorship inside his country. Nogaam and Payam started a campaign called #IAmPayam on Kickstarter.
Read following Q&A with the poet to know him better and find out why he is reaching out for new audience:
Why is it so important to you to get your work published in English?
Because being published in another language means reaching another culture. It means crafting another opportunity to find some recognition.
I don't want people from this [my] culture to be my only audience; I want people with more open minds and mentalities to read my poetry. And besides, every writer would like their work to be read on a larger scale.
Which foreign writers had the most influence on your work, and who are your favourites?
When I was a teenager I was influenced by some great contemporary Iranian poets, but these influences have faded a little with time. Later on, I became familiar with Albert Camus, Jean-Paul Sartre, and more recently Christian Bobin. But although I really like their works, I wouldn't say I've been particularly influenced by them.
Have you been in touch with any other Iranian authors or artists who are facing the same problems as you?
No, maybe some very limited problems. But I can't remember any particular cases like mine.
Would you tell us about your health these days, You were hospitalised recently - was this due to the pressure you've been put under in Iran?
Yes, I was confined to a mental hospital in a suburb of Tehran. Honestly, sometimes I feel that describing these pressures is a great deal harder than writing a good story, so let's not linger on the subject. These pressures are always going to be there, and they are always growing. I am imprisoned here: at home, in a mental hospital, in the city. I am alone. I am surrounded by accusations and insults.
What do you think is the best way of overcoming suppression and censorship in Iran?
I really don't know. All I know is that the government is using all its power to censor works published in Iran. If I had the solution to this problem, I wouldn't need to publish my work in other countries.
Where is your favourite place, and why?
Iran, because my home is here.
What is the most important lesson your mother ever taught you?
I have learnt almost everything I know from my mother - from her kind hands and bright eyes. But I think the most important thing she has taught me is how to forgive people. Otherwise, their cruelty would affect me.
What is your favourite word, and why?
'Baran' (Rain), because the 'r' is excellently placed in the word.
If you could spend the day with anybody in the world - living, dead, or mythical - who would it be, where would you go, and what would you do?
Your question reminds me of my stories! I would spend the whole day making love to the Egyptian pharaoh Amenhotep.
What does a typical day look like for you?
Tension, insecurity, some writing... and then more tension.
What is the most unexpected thing that has ever happened to you? Good or bad?
The death of my first lover. I didn't expect him to leave me like this.
How would you define the word 'freedom'?
It is undefinable.
What is your earliest memory of writing?
It goes back to my childhood, when I wrote a terrible short story whilst sitting in the stairwell leading up to my roof.
Do you have anything to say to your fellow writers living in free societies?
You can support Payam's campaign to enable him to translate and publish his poetry and reach his voice to the world.