The Book of Wisdom by Shazde Irannezhad

The Book of Wisdom

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An Iranian poet gives English-speaking readers the gift of Persian verse.

If Persian verse is a great edifice, the two pillars carrying its heavy weight are Rumi and Omar Khayyam. These giants developed—and, some would say, perfected—many of the standard forms of the genre, including masnavi, gazal, dobeiti, and robaii. In this book, debut author Irannezhad follows in Rumi’s and Khayyam’s footsteps, producing contemporary poetry in these sturdiest of structures. The masnavi and gazal forms are comprised of rhyming couplets; thus, Irannezhad gives us “Honesty”: “Honesty in life is a pure light, / Anyone who chooses it will be bright. / Anyone who lives without honesty, / During life will be unhappy.” By contrast, dobeiti and robaii are made up of quatrains, as in the following lines from a longer section called “The House of Wine”: “From birth to death are many steps / Every step we take brings us closer to our graves. / Behind your steps, sown a flower, / then paradise will appear at your steps.” The theme that Irannezhad weaves through all these classic structures is a life philosophy that he calls the “Rule of Existence.” According to Irannezhad, the Rule brings happiness and hope, and his poetry brings the Rule. Among its many benefits, he says, the Rule has the power to fulfill and liberate: “Shazde, in life like a nightingale be, / Fly, be free and become one of me!” Perhaps the only real weakness in this collection is the fact that the philosophy sometimes seems to overwhelm the poetry itself. In between verses, Irannezhad occasionally offers short prose passages that elucidate thorny parts of the Rule: “Two eternal instincts: one positive and the other negative; the education as right or wrong that we own from the beginning; the amount of understanding and intelligence to self-analyze, brings richness.” At best, this seems like New Age–y abstraction; at worst, it’s totally obscure. Either way, readers will be happy to get back to the poetry.

A modern, philosophical spin on classic Persian poetry.

Pub Date: Oct. 15th, 2015
ISBN: 978-9-52-936188-5
Page count: 112pp
Publisher: Self
Program: Kirkus Indie
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by Krista Tippett