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I gaze into the mirror of my heart, /And though it’s me who looks, it’s you I see. So speaks one of the many distinctive voices in this new anthology of verse by women poets writing in Persian, most of whom have never been translated into English before; this is especially true of the pre-modern poets, such as the unnamed author of the lines above, known simply as the “dau I gaze into the mirror of my heart, /And though it’s me who looks, it’s you I see. So speaks one of the many distinctive voices in this new anthology of verse by women poets writing in Persian, most of whom have never been translated into English before; this is especially true of the pre-modern poets, such as the unnamed author of the lines above, known simply as the “daughter of Salar” or “the woman from Esfahan.” One of the very first Persian poets was a woman (Rabe’eh, who lived over a thousand years ago) and there have been women poets writing in Persian in virtually every generation since that time until the present. Before the twentieth century they tended to come from society’s social extremes. Many were princesses, a good number were hired entertainers of one kind or another, and they were active in many different countries—Iran of course, but also India, Afghanistan, and areas of central Asia that are now Uzbekistan, Turkmenistan, and Tajikistan. Not surprisingly, a lot of their poetry sounds like that of their male counterparts, but a lot doesn’t; there are distinctively bawdy and flirtatious poems by medieval women poets, poems from virtually every era in which the poet complains about her husband (sometimes light-heartedly, sometimes with poignant seriousness), touching poems on the death of a child, and many epigrams centered on little details that bring a life from hundreds of years ago vividly before our eyes. In the nineteenth century we begin to see political poems, often very angry ones, by women demanding both the independence of Middle-Eastern countries from Western governments and women’s emancipation. Perhaps the most personal and intensely emotional poems are those of the last hundred years, in which we see local sensibilities rooted in a millennium of literary and social tradition responding to, and embracing or rejecting, the myriad multi-cultural strands that make up the modern world. The Mirror of My Heart is a unique and captivating collection introduced and translated by Dick Davis, an acclaimed scholar and translator of Persian literature as well as a gifted poet in his own right. In his introduction he provides fascinating background detail on Persian poetry written by women through the ages, including common themes and motifs and a brief overview of Iranian history showing how women poets have been affected by the changing dynasties. From Rabe’eh in the tenth century to Fatemeh Ekhtesari in the twenty-first, each of the eighty-three poets in this volume is introduced in a short biographical note, while explanatory notes give further insight into the poems themselves.


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I gaze into the mirror of my heart, /And though it’s me who looks, it’s you I see. So speaks one of the many distinctive voices in this new anthology of verse by women poets writing in Persian, most of whom have never been translated into English before; this is especially true of the pre-modern poets, such as the unnamed author of the lines above, known simply as the “dau I gaze into the mirror of my heart, /And though it’s me who looks, it’s you I see. So speaks one of the many distinctive voices in this new anthology of verse by women poets writing in Persian, most of whom have never been translated into English before; this is especially true of the pre-modern poets, such as the unnamed author of the lines above, known simply as the “daughter of Salar” or “the woman from Esfahan.” One of the very first Persian poets was a woman (Rabe’eh, who lived over a thousand years ago) and there have been women poets writing in Persian in virtually every generation since that time until the present. Before the twentieth century they tended to come from society’s social extremes. Many were princesses, a good number were hired entertainers of one kind or another, and they were active in many different countries—Iran of course, but also India, Afghanistan, and areas of central Asia that are now Uzbekistan, Turkmenistan, and Tajikistan. Not surprisingly, a lot of their poetry sounds like that of their male counterparts, but a lot doesn’t; there are distinctively bawdy and flirtatious poems by medieval women poets, poems from virtually every era in which the poet complains about her husband (sometimes light-heartedly, sometimes with poignant seriousness), touching poems on the death of a child, and many epigrams centered on little details that bring a life from hundreds of years ago vividly before our eyes. In the nineteenth century we begin to see political poems, often very angry ones, by women demanding both the independence of Middle-Eastern countries from Western governments and women’s emancipation. Perhaps the most personal and intensely emotional poems are those of the last hundred years, in which we see local sensibilities rooted in a millennium of literary and social tradition responding to, and embracing or rejecting, the myriad multi-cultural strands that make up the modern world. The Mirror of My Heart is a unique and captivating collection introduced and translated by Dick Davis, an acclaimed scholar and translator of Persian literature as well as a gifted poet in his own right. In his introduction he provides fascinating background detail on Persian poetry written by women through the ages, including common themes and motifs and a brief overview of Iranian history showing how women poets have been affected by the changing dynasties. From Rabe’eh in the tenth century to Fatemeh Ekhtesari in the twenty-first, each of the eighty-three poets in this volume is introduced in a short biographical note, while explanatory notes give further insight into the poems themselves.

52 review for The Mirror of My Heart: A Thousand Years of Persian Poetry by Women

  1. 4 out of 5

    daria ❀ دریا

    in honor of nowruz (aka the persian new year), i went ahead and recommended this and many other persian reads here: https://youtu.be/Ipjcp_e0fOU in honor of nowruz (aka the persian new year), i went ahead and recommended this and many other persian reads here: https://youtu.be/Ipjcp_e0fOU

  2. 5 out of 5

    Brian Griffith

    Dick Davis is perhaps the world’s greatest translator of Persian classics into English, capturing the nuance, beat, rhyme, and passion in a way that does justice. In this volume he showcases the female side of a civilization that has prized poetry like no other. He selects great poems by about 85 women spanning over a thousand years, from Rabe’eh in the 900s CE to Fatemeh Ekhtesari a few years ago. Let me mention just two of them. Mahsati Ganjavi (1089–1159) published famous quatrains, celebrati Dick Davis is perhaps the world’s greatest translator of Persian classics into English, capturing the nuance, beat, rhyme, and passion in a way that does justice. In this volume he showcases the female side of a civilization that has prized poetry like no other. He selects great poems by about 85 women spanning over a thousand years, from Rabe’eh in the 900s CE to Fatemeh Ekhtesari a few years ago. Let me mention just two of them. Mahsati Ganjavi (1089–1159) published famous quatrains, celebrating joy and love as the greatest aims in life. She lived her dream of personal fulfillment on a public stage, as an intellectual associate of Omar Khayyam and a companion of the Seljuq Sultan Sanjar. She aroused controversy condemning the dogmatism of professional clerics, and writing odes to freedom: No force can bind us: pull of moment, arrows flying home, Nor any wild nostalgia that seized our hearts whilom Though my soft braids turned chains of steel and anchored in your heart, Could any chain keep me home if I should wish to roam? Her city of Ganja, which is now in the Republic of Azerbaijan, has a beautiful center for art and literature devoted to her memory. Jahan Malek Katun (1324–1382) lived in Shiraz during the same decades as the great Hafez, and these poets seemed to interact in a dance of sometimes stylistically mirroring lyrics. She was approximately three times more prolific than Hafez, although the love she expressed was less ecstatic than profoundly compassionate. In 1353 the warlord Mobarez al-Din invaded Shiraz and killed all her male relatives. She wrote 23 heartbroken elegies to a deceased infant daughter. Her works included hundreds of odes, quatrains, and 1,413 gazal love poems, the earliest manuscripts of which are embellished with gold or illuminated with fine artwork, preserved as treasures of world heritage in Paris, Istanbul, and Cambridge.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Eadweard

    Aysheh Samarqandi I said, "Bright moon, give me my heart back to me How long must I endure love's agony?" He spread a thousand hearts before my eyes And said, "Take yours, which is it? You tell me." ---- Jahan Malek Khatun My heart, sit down, welcome love's pain, and make the best of it: The rose is gone but the thorns remain, so make the best of it. My heart said, "No! I can't endure this sadness any longer..." I saud, "You've no choice, don't complain, just make the best of it." ---- Mehri He asked if he Aysheh Samarqandi I said, "Bright moon, give me my heart back to me How long must I endure love's agony?" He spread a thousand hearts before my eyes And said, "Take yours, which is it? You tell me." ---- Jahan Malek Khatun My heart, sit down, welcome love's pain, and make the best of it: The rose is gone but the thorns remain, so make the best of it. My heart said, "No! I can't endure this sadness any longer..." I saud, "You've no choice, don't complain, just make the best of it." ---- Mehri He asked if he might kiss my lips, although Not which lips - those above, or those below? ---- Pari Khan Khanom We cannot lean upon this world this emptiness that fades away Bring wine my friend, we cannot change the destinies we must obey We cannot build a house upon this flowing flood of emptiness Or think of life eternal in this ruin where we briefly stay ---- Makhfi Love comes and steals a wise man's common sense outright (The thieves dowse the light first, to stay out of sight); A blind man wouldn't hurt himself as I have done I'm in the house but can't locate its owner's light. ---- Reshheh My heart beats wildly in my breast as though Pierced by a shaft shot from his eyebrows' bow. ---- Efaf In love's street, O my heart, beware - Highwaymen wait in ambush there. ---- Fakhri They say love's a catastrophe... O God, may no one ever be Deprived of this catastrophe.

  4. 4 out of 5

    S.

    It was such a good treat, to prepare for the upcoming spring. In fact the title suggests it a mirror of the heart, and so it was. Going through the poems and women poets from Persia revealed as much about them as about ourselves. While I stopped at pretty much every line to say find the subtlety there was, I couldn't help but feel in intimate presence of these poets. My heart found its reflection in the poems as its title suggested. I however enjoyed poems from the pre-republic era, rather floral It was such a good treat, to prepare for the upcoming spring. In fact the title suggests it a mirror of the heart, and so it was. Going through the poems and women poets from Persia revealed as much about them as about ourselves. While I stopped at pretty much every line to say find the subtlety there was, I couldn't help but feel in intimate presence of these poets. My heart found its reflection in the poems as its title suggested. I however enjoyed poems from the pre-republic era, rather floral and subtle than the former ones. But one theme that fascinated me enough during the Iranian republic era with all the changes that occurred was how women courageously defended their statut and more so endorsed different ideologies through their poems ! Brilliant !

  5. 5 out of 5

    Eliza

    reviewed in TLS 6099

  6. 4 out of 5

    Harmony Williams

    It takes a skilled translator to be able to render rhyme and meter without losing symbolism. I have fallen in love with Persian poetry thanks to this translation. So many of the poems are incomparably beautiful. This is one collection that I will re-read again and again!

  7. 5 out of 5

    Sahar

  8. 5 out of 5

    Hans Marijnissen

  9. 4 out of 5

    Elliot

  10. 4 out of 5

    Andi

  11. 5 out of 5

    Irina

  12. 5 out of 5

    Aurora M

  13. 4 out of 5

    Taraneh

  14. 4 out of 5

    Kate

  15. 4 out of 5

    Hind

  16. 4 out of 5

    Keys Rujano

  17. 5 out of 5

    Chas

  18. 5 out of 5

    Kels

  19. 5 out of 5

    Bahareh

  20. 5 out of 5

    Romin Aliabadi

  21. 4 out of 5

    Ricardo Marques

  22. 4 out of 5

    Kelyn

  23. 4 out of 5

    Nico

  24. 5 out of 5

    Camilla

  25. 4 out of 5

    Muhamed

  26. 5 out of 5

    Karen F

  27. 4 out of 5

    Carrie

  28. 4 out of 5

    sam farzaneh

  29. 4 out of 5

    Stephanie

  30. 5 out of 5

    Crystal

  31. 4 out of 5

    Diana

  32. 4 out of 5

    Khulood

  33. 4 out of 5

    Jessie

  34. 4 out of 5

    Angharad Morgan

  35. 5 out of 5

    Jackie

  36. 5 out of 5

    Jenny (Reading Envy)

  37. 4 out of 5

    Anne Carroll

  38. 5 out of 5

    Wajih

  39. 4 out of 5

    Halie

  40. 5 out of 5

    Zarefa Azezi

  41. 4 out of 5

    Dorsa

  42. 5 out of 5

    Diba

  43. 5 out of 5

    Mira

  44. 4 out of 5

    Hadia

  45. 5 out of 5

    Nilay Kaya

  46. 5 out of 5

    Céline Quois

  47. 4 out of 5

    Symmachus

  48. 4 out of 5

    Amani Hamed

  49. 4 out of 5

    nico lora

  50. 4 out of 5

    rêveur d'art

  51. 4 out of 5

    Ana Nogueira

  52. 4 out of 5

    Samira

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