Hey Humans! (from New Poetry New Music)

Instrumentation 4 narrators, 2 vln, vla, vcl
Duration 9:00
Year Composed 2012
Commissioned by
Poetry by Nima Yushij/Stevie Smith

Audio Samples

Video Samples

Program Notes

Nima Yushij (1896-1960) is the father of modernism in Persian poetry, a movement that was famously coined as “Sher’e No” (New Poetry) as it signalled a radical break with the conventions of classical Persian poetry. Nima’s contributions to Persian poetry resulted in major innovations in both form and content; or to put it more correctly, both form and content were handled in such a way to reflect the sensibilities of a modern era. In terms of form, Nima broke with a revered poetic tradition that relied heavily on rhyming couplets and equal lines to convey the poem’s rhythm and musicality. Nima argued that the feeling and sensibility of each line, and its relation to the particular passage in the poem in which it appeared, should determine its length. At the same time, the rhyme, according to Nima, should only be employed when the poet wishes to signal a revelation, a transition, or a turning point in the poem. In terms of content, Nima’s poetry had a dual sweep. At once resonantly social and intensely individual, it reflected both a particularly dark era of tyranny in Iran’s modern history and captured the despair and hope that shaped the core of Nima’s own individuality. Apart from Hafez (1325-1390), no other poet has rendered the intricately complex sense of an era in Iranian history as powerfully as Nima. And yet, Nima everywhere in his poems doggedly insists on his own individuality. The fusion of these two aspects in Nima’s poems may yet be his greatest achievement. This quality surfaces clearly in “Hey Humans.” The situation of the drowned persona in the poem both transmits Nima’s own personal dilemma, his own overpowering sense of despair and isolation, and the social and historical circumstances in which he found himself. One last point about Nima’s poetry is the existence of different voices in his poems. Nima’s poetry is a polyphonic construction that, by always taking into account the other and his voice, remains singularly unique in the entire expanse of Persian poetry.

Hey humans,
Who are sitting on the shore, joyous and laughing, Someone is losing his life in the water,
Someone is constantly struggling
In this raging, dark and heavy sea that you know. When you are drunk
With the thought of overcoming your enemy, When you think in vain
That you have given a hand to a feeble person
To dispel suffering,
When you tighten your belts
Over your waists…
When can I tell you
That someone is sacrificing his life in the water pointlessly?
Hey humans,
Who sit around a sumptuous feast on the shore,
Bread on your spread, clothes covering your bodies,
A drowning man calls you.
He beats the heavy wave with his tired hand,
His mouth is dragged shut with eyes torn by terror,
He has seen your shadows from afar,
Has swallows the water in the azure hole as his impatience grows every moment, Sometimes he raises his head, sometimes his foot, out of the water.
Hey humans,
He takes the measure of this old world again from afar,
He shouts and hopes for help.
Hey humans,
Who are watching indifferently from the shore,
The wave pounds the silent shore,
It spreads like a drunk man on the bed, gripped by unconsciousness. It recedes, and the voice rises roaring from afar again:
Hey humans…
And the sound of the wind grows more desolate by the moment And in the wind, his voice grows freer.
From the near and far waters
Still this voice penetrates the ears
Hey humans… (trans. Dr. Mahmood Khoshchehreh)


  • September 8, 2012—Ton Beau String Quartet, Leila Moslemi, Faraz Rashidian, Mohsen Nazeri, and Bahar Entezari, narrators
    St. George Anglican Church (Toronto, ON)


Salam Toronto (Farsi)


To obtain a copy of the score, contact Keyan Emami.