Esther Kamkar's Main Poetry Index

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Esther Kamkar:

Poetry has always been part of my life. My mother tongue is Farsi, the most poetic language in the world. So many poets wrote in this language and their poetry is part of everyday language – a language of metaphors, similies, sayings and proverbs. Shahrzad the teller of stories, the survivor, was part of our awareness at all times.

We played games with poems; each person recited a couplet, then the 2nd person took the last word and started another couplet and it went on and on. There was even a radio show, where contestants recited couplet after couplet.

In elementary school we had calligraphy lessons, writing pages and pages of couplets from Hafez, Saadi, Ferdowsi, Mowlana Rumi, with a bamboo pen, or a 'touche', a thinner nib, dipped in the inkwell. The bottom of the inkwell was lined with silk threads to absorb and hold the ink.

Almost everyone I knew – family, friends, relatives - had the big book of Hafez. Hafez was not a Sufi but a knower of Sufism. People used his book as a way of asking advice before they made a decision, a little like the I-Ching. My mother would sit down, hold the book and close her eyes, asking the question in her heart. Then she would open the book and read a ghazal, a longish poem usually, and promised Hafez a branch of sugar crystal if he would elaborate more in the following poem. Now I know that Hafez's wife's name was Sugar Crystal Branch. Amazing!