Islamic and Friendship Studies at Oberlin College

Charlize Villaseñor: Oral Culture and Poetry

Persian poetry has many intricacies that are characterized in a variety of ways. This includes subgenres including Odes, various fonts in calligraphy, and differing performances in these poems often through music. Each of these factors influence the presentation of the poetry and how it is received. 

Odes are known for being longer than other forms of poetry such as Quatrains and for providing commentary, often a realist or pessimistic view, of a concept. Common themes of Odes include nature, contrasts in the world, simplicity, and more. Mohammad-Taqi Bahar’s, “The Miracle of Spring,” is a poem that conveys the beauty of nature in the spring, but includes the hardships of winter that must come before spring. Within this poem, Bahar writes: “Over the buried roses, over a world of dead. Vengeful as any hangman stalked the exultant crow. But lo, the abiding wonder! Spirit that never dies.” The winter brings the cold and death which are described in the first lines of the poem which is antithetical to the spirit spring being described as never dying. In Odes, both sides of the theme are expressed equally which assists in introducing the motif of realism of this subgenre. Though in more romantic poetry the life of spring may be primarily emphasized, Bahar chooses to convey the characteristics of both and does not hide how harsh winter can be and how wonderfully spring comes. 

As there are various subgenres of Persian poetry, there are also nuances in calligraphy that add effect to the presentation of the work. Viewing the pages of calligraphy in the museum as well as comparing the work of my peers has allowed me to see the differences in writing and the way it impacts how an audience receives a piece of poetry. While some styles of calligraphy can be elongated with long and dramatic curves, some styles are more geometric with sharper lines and hard turns, and other styles can have more loops and curviness, which is the style my writing falls under. I feel that various factors go into one’s style of calligraphy including the personality of the artist and the meaning of the poem. While Odes may be written in a more geometric style as there is more realism present, Quatrains may be written in a dreamier style with softer and loopier lines to represent the romanticism often present, and Didactic poems may be more elongated to portray the beauty and significance of the moral lessons learned in the text. I prefer a more romantic portrayal of poetry and I feel that the soft lines I write help better convey that. Additionally, the writing utensil used also influences how one writes. I find that I write neater when working with chalk rather than pen and the angles of each letter come out neater yet with more flourishments. There are many factors that go into an artist’s or writer’s style of calligraphy, all of which add to the presentation of the poem. 

When poetry is set to music, often times the message is emphasized through various ways. Techniques often used by songwriters include elongated syllables, the repetition of lyrics, and the use of classical instruments. Unlike many modern songs produced only to be catchy or have a single meaning, the music of Persian poetry is a meaningful performance that has the ability to speak to each member of the audience individually. The music and lyrics work together to create a certain expression or mood for the lines being sung. The piece originally written by Shahriar repeats the lines, “you came, but why so late?” The elongation of the lyrics emphasizes the pain of the artist that is seemingly caused by someone who could have come earlier but is too late which hurts the artist almost in a sense that this individual did not care enough to come sooner. These drawn out lyrics as well as the orchestral background add to the multilayered lyrics. The situation that these lyrics are describing are not explicit which assists in reaching a large audience as procrastination is a common experience that often times has consequences. This can include situations such as life changing decisions, death, loss of a lover, and more. It helps represent the lack of respect apparent when one procrastinates and the pain this lack of respect inflicts onto others. The hurt yet passionate tone is conveyed through the music in its dramatic performance by both the orchestra and the artist. 

Subgenres of poetry, calligraphic styles, and musical performance all have a significant influence on the audience’s interpretation of the work. The variations in these presentations of the work assist in creating a mood for the audience in order to deeply resonate with the piece and understand its meaning, even if it has a different significance to them every time they listen, as the poetry can be interpreted in different ways for a variety of situations. Though all of these factors are able to stand alone, they work together to create a work of art that has the power to touch countless people. 

I affirm that I have adhered to the Honor Code for this assignment. 

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