Photos from Persian New Year Event

Wow. I took a chance on this event and tried something I hadn’t done before. But it was such a delightful experience and I’m so happy we went for it.

On Wednesday, March 25, we gathered in the delightful and perfectly-sized back banquet room of Village Falafel after work. We ordered food and wine, which lent a great relaxed feeling to the evening. There were about 15 of us, including two members of the Library Commission and the Mayor of Cupertino, Rod Sinks, and his wife! (Full disclosure — I’ve known Rod and Britta for many years, our children having gone to the same schools, swum at the same club, etc.). Joy of joys, there were also four people who had never attended a CupPL event before, three of whom saw our flier in the library and one who read about us in the Courier. Joy of joys, new poetry lovers in Cupertino.

To my utter delight, a lady came who studied languages and culture in Iran years ago, and she brought with her some poems by Rumi in Farsi, which she read to us, together with her own translations. It was thrilling to hear the meter of the ghazals, and to hear the repeated words at the end of each couplet, even though I didn’t understand the words. She performed with real gusto.

And even better, if possible, was the presence of three women, Iranian natives: two residents of Cupertino and their visitor from Iran. They brought their Hafez, in a bright blue and gold book, and also read in Farsi, several of the poems for which I had brought in English translations. It was so moving for all of us, to hear the poems in their original melodic language, then to read two different English translations and to all discuss together what we thought and felt. They spoke about how important Hafez was in Iran, and I was envious of the reverence the people still feel there for ancient poetry.

Hafez Roses

This is the poem Robert Bly translated as “One Rose is Enough” — the first line is translated by Dick Davis as “Of all the roses in the world.”

The photo above shows me with my Rumi reader on the left and my Hafez reader on the right. The other two photos I took from the book of Hafez’s poems my guest brought. They are the same poems I had translations of.

Hafez Angels

Bly titled this poem as “The Angels at the Tavern Door” (also the name of his book of Hafez translations). The first line, as translated by Davis, is “Last night I saw the angels.”

We talked about a lot of things that evening. About God, religion, spirit. About spring and nature. About love. About wine and food and the place poetry has in our homes. And we talked about Iran, both historically and today, while the world waits with baited breath to hear of possible movement toward diplomatic relations between the US and that great and complex country. I am so happy to say, it was a perfect evening of poetry and companionship for me, and I hope for my guests.

Persian New Year Poetry Background

As part of my International Poetry Cantos project in 2015, Canto Number 2 is Persian New Year Poetry. Persian New Year is celebrated on March 20, 2015 — the date of the Vernal Equinox.

On Wednesday, March 25, please join me in reading poems by Persian poets, in Farsi and in English. We’ll be meeting at Village Falafel, on Stevens Creek Blvd in Cupertino, at 6:30 pm to read poems together and to eat.

To prepare for this event, I want to introduce you to Persian poets of repute, but first a little background. Persian literature is one of the world’s most ancient literatures. You can read about it on Wikipedia for a fast overview, or at the Iran Chamber Society, or Encyclopedia Britannica.  Obviously a few websites can’t do justice to this rich tradition, but if you have no familiarity, I suggest spending a few moments to orient yourself.

When we speak of Persian poetry, we mean in general, poetry written in Farsi, also known as Parsi or Persian, or poetry written by people who live in the land currently known as Iran. An interesting source is Classical Persian Poetry: A Thousand Years of the Persian Book, a fascinating look at a Library of Congress exhibit.

The most famous (to Americans) Persian art form is the ghazal, described here by the Academy of American Poets. This link takes you to a lovely example of the form, in English, by poet Agha Shahid Ali on the Poetry Foundation website. Though a Kashmiri Muslim, Ali is well known for writing in this form for American audiences. While I am not an expert, I found this website, with literal and poetic translations of some of Rumi’s famous ghazals to be very enlightening and inspiring.

The most well know Persian poets in the U.S. are Rumi and Hafez. Here are some resources.

  • Poetry Foundation video, in collaboration with The News Hour, “Bringing Persian Poetry to Western Readers” about Hafez.
  • Hafez biography

hafez

Rumi

There are many books, translations, essays, fantasies about these legendary and vital poets. I’ll be pulling together a bibliography in the next week, getting us ready to read on March 25.

Stay tuned!

“Tonight” by Agha Shahid Ali (with hyperlinks and audio)

What a find! A phenomenal poem, in a traditional and beautiful form, with both hyperlinks to comfort those used to interactive web play and an audio of the poet reading. Read, understand, inquire, listen, enjoy! One of the Poetry Foundation’s “Annotated Poems” — there are even lessons plans and teaching tips.

Agha Shahid Ali is superbly active politically and lyrically, and one of the most interesting poets to read currently writing. IMHO. His poem, “Tonight” is a ghazal, but rather than tell you all about it, I invite you to explore for yourself. Whether you’re searching for poets from India, Muslim poets, poetic forms, Emily Dickinson, the Bible, or Mughal architecture, you’ll find something to love here.

Photo courtesy of Flickr.