Persian Love Poetry By Vesta Sarkhosh Curtis and Sheila R. Canby, eds. (Northampton, Massachusetts: Interlink Books, 2006. 96 pages.)

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David Armani
Louise Gormley



This little book is a beguiling collection of Persian love poems drawn from
both classical and modern poetry, but united by the theme of love in its myriad
interpretations. Included are poems that explore the spiritual love
between humans and God, the magical love between lovers or spouses, the
affectionate love between family members and between friends, and even
the patriotic love for one’s homeland. Each poem is accompanied with a precious
Persian chef d’oeuvre from the British Museum and, in particular, numerous illustrations of Persian miniatures. The editors come to this subject
with vast expertise: Vesta Sarkhosh Curtis is curator of Islamic and
Iranian coins in the British Museum, and Sheila R. Canby is an assistant
keeper in the British Museum specializing in Islamic Iran. Both have published
on Persian art, art history, archaeology, and myths, among other topics.
Their aim is not to produce a well-researched and exhaustive collection
of Persian love poetry, but rather “to encourage readers to delve further into
the wealth of Persian literature” (p. 5). With its modest aim of capturing the
interest of novice western readers, theirs is a delightful book that charms its
way to success.
As explained in the “Introduction,” Iranians and other Persian (Farsi)
speakers treasure poetry not only because of the beauty of the poetic language
itself, but also because they derive joy and comfort from the poets’ perspective
toward the world. The most famous Persian poets often have a mystical
(Sufi) viewpoint toward life, whereby passion is a path to reach God and the
truth. Interwoven into the people’s social consciousness, poetry holds a
revered place in Persian culture. A single verse from the best-known Persian
poems can capture an idea with elegant brevity. Iranians and other Persian
(Farsi) speakers still recite poetry as a succinct and powerful way to express
a point, thought, or emotion. To explain how deeply embedded poetry is in
the Persian psyche, many oft-quoted proverbs draw much of their meaning
and message from Persian poetry ...

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