Persian Poems edited by Peter Washington
Publication: September 29th 2000 by Everyman
Format: Hardback Pages: 256
In my opinion (like everything else on this blog, hah), a ‘good’ poem is one that makes me feel something. A poem might be masterful in its use of imagery, it might have dozens of clever references, or it might have a lot of hidden meanings that take the reader years to decipher, but unless it makes me feel something, I won’t call it a good poem. And that is why I find it difficult to review poetry; how do you review an emotional response? So, bear with me as I try to explain why I’m absolutely in love with this gorgeous little hardback copy of Persian Poems.
Persian Poems features poetry from Omar, Sanai, Attar, Rumi, Saadi, Hafez, and Jamil (the majority are by Rumi and Hafez). Due to the variety of poets in this collection, I’d say it’s a great introduction if you’re interested in delving into Persian poetry but aren’t sure where to start. The collection features extracts from well-known classics, such as ‘The Walled Garden of Truth’, and the topics vary from love and life to religion and spirituality.
Every time I encounter Persian poetry, I’m left with the impression that the poet, whether that’s Attar or Rumi, did not labour over their poetry; it flowed out of them like speech. And some of the poems in this collection are, despite their simplicity, truly exquisite.
All of the poems elicited an emotional response from me. Whether it was the entire poem, a couplet, or the combination of two or three words that stuck in my mind, I managed to enjoy everything in this collection.
The book is small, it’s about 18cm in length so I’d call it ‘pocket-sized’, and it has around 243 pages of poetry (excluding contents, foreword, and title pages!). Since it’s a hardcover, there is a ribbon for you to use as a bookmark.
There are a mix of long and short poems, so you can just pick Persian Poems up and have a quick read if that’s what you want. The focus is on lyric and aphoristic forms – which I was glad of because I love ghazals.
I thought the translators did a good job because I loved the collection and admired the poetry despite it not being in its original language. There are multiple translators per poet and, as I already have a copy of Hafez’s poems translated by Gertrude Bell, I liked exploring other translators’ take on his poetry.