Geographic references play a large role in Arefani’s poetry, owing to his nomadic life. A political viewpoint is always to be found in his work, but his poems are not rhetorical or sloganising. In his work, the political becomes poetical.
Mehrdad Arefani was born in July 1963 in Shahsavar, a Caspian sea port in Northern Iran. At the age of 15 he was swept into politics by the Iranian Revolution. Arefani’s secular views put him at odds with the dominant Islamic fundamentalism, resulting in his imprisonment from the age of 18.
In 1987 he fled to the Soviet Union and was returned to Iran after a few months. For over five years he was passed from one political prison to another.
Arefani started writing poetry in earnest, at the age of 30, in 1993. Nevertheless, his work was soon banned from publication, and only certain dissident journals, such as Adineh or Gardoon, which have now been closed down by the authorities, published selections of his poetry. His first book, Branch of Sunlight, went into print but was withdrawn from distribution. In 2000, he escaped Iran for Istanbul, moving then to Sarajevo, Italy and Belgium. He now lives in Brussels with his wife and daughter. There, he has published a collection of poems entitled From Tree to Tree. To counter censorship in Iran, Arefani has also been active in disseminating poetry through the Internet. He edits an online magazine hashtaad.com, and facilitates poetry in exile through YouTube and other social media sites.
Arefani has produced video clips of poems by Ali Abdolrezaei and has also made videos based on his own work.
Branch of Sunlight, 1992, jazma.org
From Tree to Tree, Dena, Brussels, 2010