Physician, poet, literary magazine co-founder Story and Photography by Jasmina Wellinghoff
..o Saidi was born in Iran, where he earned his M.D. degree from the Tehran University School of Medicine. In 1969, he came to the United States to pursue a residency in OB/ GYN at the College of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey, followed by a subspecialty fellowship at the University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio. Delighted by the sunny weather and the sunny disposition of San Antonians, he decided to settle here for good. During his medical career, Saidi authored more than 50 articles published in American medical journals as well as the textbook, Female Sterilization: A Handbook for Women.
There’s a game, called moshaere, where players recite verses from poems with each player starting with the word that ended the previously spoken verses. It goes on until someone fails to continue the cycle. My favorite poet during middle and high school was Omar Khayyam. His poetry is very philosophical and secular, questioning many aspects of religion and myths, and I fell in love with those notions. I was raised in a strict Moslem family and we, the children, were all annoyed by the pressure on us to practice Islam. That produced a backlash. By the age of 16, I lost my faith. At the same time, because of my readings in philosophy and religions, I began to write prose. But there was always a natural inclination in my soul to write poetry.
Post retirement, Saidi decided to devote himself to the literary life, publishing a volume of short stories and three poetry collections in addition to co-founding Even though I went to medical school, I never and managing the literary magazine Voices de la Luna, stopped reading and writing poetry. But the heavy a quarterly forum for poets and writers. work load and later, in the United States, dealing with a new language and a new country, forced me Saidi’s latest poetry collection, Between A and Z, was to put writing on the back burner until I had the issued earlier this year by Wings Press, a nationally opportunity to return to it. However, I did some respected small-press publisher. Commentators have writing in Farsi and published a couple of short described Saidi’s work as “narratively compelling” stories in prestigious Iranian literary magazines and “compassionate,” with one writer stating that in 1978 and 1985. I finally switched to English in “these poems wander across an impressive range of the early 1990s but my proficiency was not quite physical and emotional landscapes, landscapes of good enough so I decided to improve it. (He took memory and time. Saidi is a wise guide.” repeated sabbaticals from his medical practice to earn a master’s degree in English and American We talked to Saidi in his home office, while his literature from Harvard.) painter wife, Brigitte Saidi, worked in her studio next door. Both husband and wife are active participants JW: I gather that poetry is a lot more popular in Iran and supporters of the San Antonio arts community. than here. JW: In the first poem of the book, you refer to MS: Poetry is supreme in Iran. Historically, Persian your childhood desire to become a writer. Tell us writers have expressed themselves through poetry, about that. since the Zoroastrian era (400-500 BC). The type of poetry they wrote was basically lyrical story telling. MS: In Iran, children are taught to recite poetry. Literary fiction is very recent in Iran. July/August 2014 | On The Town 85
Published on Jul 1, 2014