Islamic and Friendship Studies at Oberlin College

Mary Post FYSP Response #3

Mary C Post 

FYSP: Muslim Oral Culture 

Professor J. Mahallati 

Submitted: 10/18/2019 12:41 AM

Third Response Paper 

“Many times, we are in search of life of what we already have”

The art of an Ode poem is to tackle troubling topics and unpack them over time. An ode is characterized as a poem that is not concise and addresses complex or serious topics. The human brain loves to organize things based on differences, rather than similarities. In this sense, Ode poetry is one of many modalities in which individuals can challenge the notion of “othering” by dissecting the reasons one might feel inclined to do so. 

On page 96 of A.J. Arderry’s Persian Poems: An anthology of verse translations, the poet Asadi grapples with the meaning of night and day. A conversation between an enthusiast for Night and an enthusiast for Day, Asadi describes the quarrel in detail. Going back and forth with reasons as to why one is better than the other, each makes arguments the other cannot retaliate. At a glance, one might find this poem to be one dimensional — purely just to describe the fight between the personified Night and Day. However, if one recognizes the notion that humans adore “othering”, the audience is able to see the desperation of the two figures in how they feel they must not agree with the other. As shown below, there is more to this poem than just a clash of perspectives: 

 “Here the fierce dispute and strife which passed between Night and Day; ’Tis a tale which from the heart will drive all brooding care away. Thus it is chanced, that these disputed as to which stood first in fame, and between the two were bandied many words of praise and blame.”

As Asadi begins: “Here the fierce dispute and strife which passed between Night and Day;”, the audience begins to see the stage that he sets: two foes who don’t even know their genesis but fight for their egos and pride. Further, it is the inherent differences that have been constructed for Night and Day versus what they actually believe. “’ Tis a tale which from the heart will drive all brooding care away.”. Thus, this fight represents much more than who was first in their origin. Rather than this argument is based on heartache and emotions than in a set of objective facts. One’s brain may make them intelligent, but their heart will cloud judgment until the day their demise is met. 

“Thus it is chanced, that these disputed as to which stood first in fame, and between the two were bandied many words of praise and blame.” Asadi makes the claim that this dispute is inevitable. What one can argue, however, is how to address disagreement. Is it with brute force? An ego battle? A conversation that is driven from a subjective view? Objective view? 

It is these questions that Asadi brings up later in the Ode. The beauty of an Ode poem is to be able to objectively quarrel with a complex issue and peel apart arguments layer by layer. Yes, there is nothing concise about these poems. But it is with the lengthy explanations and descriptions that the audience is able to decide for themselves what they believe. Further, Ode poetry gives the audience the chance to see various perspectives for an issue, and rather than be persuaded to choose one or another, one is asked to empathize with all subjects of the poetry. 

Ode poetry aligns nicely with the art and practice of calligraphy because it donates the opportunity to build connections over empathy and community rather than by othering a specific perspective, mindset, or whatever it may be. 

When I decided to take this class, I never would have imagined standing at a chalkboard inscribing various lines of Persian poetry alongside my peers. I never imagined seeing color in words the way we do. Seeing emotion, lessons, and morals transcribed in another language, in which I know fragments not even sentences. However, it is through the motion of writing calligraphy that one learns the importance of what they are writing. During the classroom blackboard exercise, students were given a chance to be vulnerable within their craftsmanship and share with each other. 

This idea that one can be vulnerable with their craftsmanship allows individuals to find self-reflection and growth over time. Likewise, performing poetic pieces can have the same effect. In Bani Adam Azaye’s musical piece, the artists are performing a rendition of a poem. Instead of reading line by line, the audience is aided in comprehending the poet’s intent and feeling the emotions wash over them note by note. This phenomenon of using music as a modality, in which one can feel the message on a different level than perhaps reading words does, is not uncommon. Further, it is the familiarity of the use of this modality that makes it so powerful.


Arberry, A.J., ed. Persian Poems: An Anthology of Verse Translations. N.p.: Yassavoli Publications,


Azaye, Bani Adam. Bani Adam Azaye Yekdigarand – بنی آدم اعضای یکدیگرند. 2012.

Mahallati, Jafar. “Class Discussions.” Lecture, Oberlin College, Oberlin, OH, October 2019.

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