The topic that I have chosen for my archival project relates to the 1979 Iranian Revolution. The reason that I chose this event was because it is very personal to me, I am the daughter of two Iranian immigrants, both of whom arrived in the United States at very different times, my mother’s family in the mid 1970s and my father in the 1990s. Both sides of my family have experienced the impact that the Iranian Revolution has left. I wanted to write and create my two remixed poems to show the change that Iran has gone through since 1979, how the United States responded to the Shah being overthrown, and all while incorporating the different journeys that my family experienced as Iranian immigrants in America.
The first primary source that I chose was from the National Security Archive titled “Iran’s 1979 Revolution Revisited: Failures (and a Few Successes) of U.S. Intelligence and Diplomatic Reporting”. I chose this source because I wanted to see how the United States responded to the fall of the Shah, especially since the Shah and the United States had a solid relationship and respected each other up until the fall of the Pahlavi dynasty. The Shah was invited to visit the U.S. from many prominent Presidents such as Dwight Eisenhower, John F. Kennedy and Jimmy Carter, so it will be interesting to see how the American government viewed what was happening in Iran back in ’79.
The second primary source that I chose was from the New York Times titled “The Iran Revolution at 40: From Theocracy to ‘Normality'”. It is an article explaining how Iran has changed since the 1979 Iranian Revolution. Little more than 40 years have passed since then, and the world has changed, along with Iran. This article dives into how Iranian pop culture and social life has developed and changed within four decades with introductions to new music, Instagram and technology.
History of the Revolution:
The Shah of Iran, better known as Mohammad Reza Pahlavi, was given the title of Shah in 1941 after having succeeded his exiled father after conflicts relating to World War II arose. The Shah was backed by a lot of Western support over the years of his reign, especially from Great Britain and the United States. This was not always seen favorably with all Iranian citizens. Over the years, the Shah increased Iran’s standard of living, but also increased the nation’s debt.
However, people were getting angry with the Shah’s refusal to listen to his critics, and in the 70s there was growing support for Ayatollah Khomeini, an exiled Iranian who starting a mass following after criticizing the Shah’s actions and eventually overthrowing him and becoming the Supreme Leader of Iran. The Shah and the rest of the members of the Pahlavi family were exiled out of Iran and the monarchy was over. The Shah ended up dying a little over a year after the Revolution from cancer.
Remixing the poems:
The breakdown of the New York Times primary source:
Tehran, Pahlavi, Western, Iranians, pride, country, imprisonment, theocracy, society, reality, internet, protests, future, Instagram, women, outside, police, Iran, culture
Kissed, raged, left, fleeing, changed, danced, acting, fired, creep, playing, used, decided, change
Chaos, rapid, cancer-stricken, godfather, ecstatic, mass, revolutionary, brutally, cumulative, notoriously
Adverbs and Articles
Entirely, eventually, slowly, brutally, zealously, a, the
The breakdown of the National Security Archive primary source:
Diplomats, failure, ally, Shah, Khomeini, opposition, influence, Iran, U.S., stability, regime, domestic, threat, violence, overthrow, Washington, C.I.A, documents, Carter, administration, frustration, danger
Monitor, returns, restored, forecasting, produced, grows, examines, provides, incorporated, forecast
Powerful, harsh, brief, volatile, sophisticated, loyal, important
Adverbs and Articles:
The, a, newly, previously
Poem #1 – Based on the NYT article
Rapid chaos and mass protests.
Iranians fleeing the country.
Reality slowly changed, culture changed.
Pahlavi eventually left.
Slowly society changed.
Internet, Instagram, the future.
Slowly change the country.
Poem #2 – Based on the reports from the National Security Archive
U.S. diplomats forecast violence.
The Shah examines the opposition.
Washington, the C.I.A, Carter.
The previously powerful Shah forecasting danger.
The Carter administration forecasting domestic threats.
I wanted to write two poems consisting of eight lines each (my mother was eight when she left Iran and I felt that each line was a tribute to each year she spent there), the first poem focused more on the aftermath of the 1979 Revolution to the present day when there is a realization that Iran has changed and has the ability to progress more with the help of new technological advancements and social media. The second poem was about how the United States viewed the Iranian Revolution, and how America was convinced that the Shah could regain control of Iran, however, they quickly abandoned this viewpoint when the Carter administration realized that the Shah was completely overthrown.
I wanted to keep the tone of the poem very short, almost with a sense of urgency to it to represent a country on the verge of collapse along with all of the frightened and politically active citizens who lived there. My poetry makes visible the fear and unrest that was in Iran during the late 70s, as well as the progress that the country has made with social media. I think that while I do touch on how many Iranians left Iran during the Revolution, I did not specifically talk about certain experiences and stories which I think that if I were to do this project again with different archives I could talk about that more.
I think the reason that the 1979 Iranian Revolution is a topic in so many archives is because it is one of the most prominent political events of the 20th century. A vibrant and wealthy country suddenly overthrows its monarchy in only a couple of years. It is almost unheard of. The language of these archival documents helps people who perhaps do not know much about the Iranian Revolution educate themselves.
I have never tried the art of remixing poetry before, and I found this project to be really fascinating and a lot of fun. I think that taking an archival source about something that means a lot to you and turning it into a work of art is how creativity is born. I was really happy that we were able to write about something that relates to our own story, and I hope that my poems have helped people create a new point of view about Iran.