Roya Hakakian at NPR:
My encounter with America, from the moment we drove away from the airport and I saw layer after layer of bridge and road piled vast and high, had dwarfed me through and though. The currency of everything I knew or had was of no value in the American bazaar. Everything here was bigger, better or, as displayed on every shampoo bottle, at least 20 percent more.
Except, and this was my sole consolation, for the treasury of poetry I carried in my head. Persian literature with its ancient tradition of verse was how I cured homesickness and soothed the melancholic byproducts of displacement.
When feelings of insecurity or inadequacy arose, I fought them, knowing that America, however great, could not match my country's peerless poetry.
Rumi, Omar Khayyam, Hafez were no longer simply writers but the pillars of my reconfigured identity. And when has identity ever been reconfigured without a note of superiority? No verse in this towering new land could outdo the love, passion, devotion and yearning, the beauty in the ones I knew.
I'd rested in that certainty when a poem by Theodore Roethke unsettled me. It was called “My Papa's Waltz.”