The poems of Hafez have a beautiful and musical quality, which also embody a great spontaneity. In a myriad of poetic ways, he expresses the spiritual experiences of a mystic, in love with his Beloved. Like other Sufi poets, Hafez weaves themes of ambiguity into his poems. Often he will use secular images such as wine, drunkenness and human love, however these are just symbols for the divine experiences which Hafez is alluding to.
You're still a bud, yet hundreds of nightingales surround you.
Hafez is Iran's most beloved, most highly revered, and most frequently quoted lyric poet. He was born in Shiraz circa 1320 and died around 1390. Not much is known about his life except the most general facts. Son of a merchant, Hafez was well educated, married, and had a son. After his talent for poetry became apparent, Hafez became the court poet for most of the rulers of Shiraz during his lifetime.
In Iran Hafez is known by the following name, Khajeh Shams ad-Din Mohammad Hafez-e Shirazi. The word Khajeh is a term of respect which is awarded to someone who embodies wisdom and learning. Shams ad-Din literally means "sun of religion" and was also a descriptive phrase signifying his expertise in the Qu'ran. Mohammad is Hafez's given name. The term "Hafez" is an honorary title given to someone who has memorized the entire Qu'ran. Hence, Hafez's pen name is derived from his knowledge about the Qu'ran. The Shirazi at the end of the name alerts the reader to the poet's hometown. Hafez is believed to have spent most of his life in Shiraz, except for one or two incidents when he was exiled.
The first anthology of writing by women of the Iranian diaspora, Let Me Tell You Where I've Been features over one hundred selections of poetry, fiction and nonfiction from over fifty contributors. This anthology explores through literature the influences of history, revolution, war, exile, and immigration.
We present to you two poets from this wonderful collection, Esther Kamkar and Katayoon Zandvakili.
Submissions to the Levantine Review are accepted year round.
Poetry: submit to poetryeditor-at-levantinecenter.org. Include your bio and a picture. We will contact you if your poem is selected for publication.
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Zeitoun (McSweeney's Books, 2009), so named for the surname of the main character, is a harrowing, nonfictional tale of biblical proportions—the crux of which takes place in New Orleans immediately following Hurricane Katrina.
Abdulrahman Zeitoun and his wife Kathy are practicing Muslims who own a busy painting company and numerous properties throughout New Orleans. Zeitoun is well-known and heavily utilized, especially at the first warnings of any storm, for in addition to the usual painting jobs his company is regularly called on for the preparatory securing of homes and offices. When Katrina arrives, he feels he cannot abandon the city during its time of crisis. He evacuates Kathy and their four children but is compelled to stay behind. Like a mini version of the flood story, his world is all but drowned. Rather than seeking the protection of an ark, however, this protagonist takes to a second-hand canoe.
"Ghazals for the Homeland"
Syrian American poet/novelist Mohja Kahf makes a rare Southern California appearance at the Levantine Cultural Center, on Wednesday, July 14, where she will read from, sign and discuss her books The Girl in the Tangerine Scarf, and E-mails from Scheherazad. As the New York Times wrote, "Mohja Kahf, an Arab-American writer, draws sharp, funny, earthy portraits of the fault line separating Muslim women from their Western counterparts." Read a Mohja Kahf poem, "Ghazal for Iranians Who Don't Hate Arabs."
To Rom, and Parichehr
Today I met Iranians who don't hate Arabs.
They smiled and said "hey, selam," even knowing I was Arab.
They didn't have green eyes, yet they seemed to bear up
pretty well without them, and they don't fault Arabs,
not all of us, at least, for Nahavand, and the bloody flare-up
at Karbala; after all, remember, Imam Husayn was Arab.
I was a little scared at first, but soon I scraped my chair up
closer and acknowledged half our poetry and science isn't Arab.
A way of moving it forward
to protect its past, its tired mind.
Its deep stories. Dark angles.
The phobia it sculpts out of night.
It's not about a song.
It's about a ruin, a voice's fainting crescendo.
It's loud. It's narrow. It's quiet.
This is something we know-it stirs.
Stirs the branches of darkness. Stirs the
echoes of rivers. Stirs what is not ours.
And what's ours. Gone and gone.
Here and here, there and there.
Reviewed by Holaday Mason
Nathalie Handal's third collection of poems, Love and Strange Horses (University of Pittsburg, Pitt Poetry Series, 2010) is infused with concern for unity and with the fundamental need for both male and female, homeland and new land, tradition and innovation. Handal is a Palestinian from Bethlehem who has made her home New York for over a decade. She came to prominence with the anthology, The Poetry of Arab Women (Interlink 2001), and is active as a playwright and poetry editor. In the poem opening the book she writes,
History has a way of
moving the heart backwards.
A way of moving it forward
to protect its past, its tired mind
In this book the profound value in beauty is distinct from the distractions of seduction; the territory of light and air is sweet with beauty and beauty is both her contribution to that source and a gift from it. Handal taps her music from a deeply courageous ownership of that power, standing up with pure sensual acknowledgment in a world where the power of the beautiful feminine is often treated as enemy, both feared and dominated. She writes of the brutality of objectification and dominance in cultures and relationships and the pull of loss and longing, yet holds sacred the landscape of her history as well as the land of human touch:
Mohammed "Mo" Shirazi, the protagonist of Fred Kashani's humorous second novel Hero Pizza, is a twenty-something artist traveling from New York to Tokyo for an exhibition of his work. On the way, he has decided--presumably against his own better judgment--to stop by Los Angeles (Reseda, to be exact) and drop in on his parents. Hero Pizza chronicles one day of this layover (punctuated with frequent childhood flashbacks) as Mo tries to cope with the casually oppressive forces of nature that he calls mom and dad.