Friday, May 29, 2015

Ottoman Poetry Class Handout

Another class I am teaching at a symposium tomorrow featuring some of the basics of Ottoman Poetry. You'll be missing out on a fair amount of info from the class itself, but is a great place to start. Terms are multiple languages, for now.  This is one of those research projects that will go on for years and be updated and changed. Till then...

Ottoman Poetry
Lady Eilon bat Miriam.   Mka: D. Brianne Galgano. 

Poetry was the height of entertainment and the most respected form of literature in the Ottoman Empire.  Poetry was included in or part of the construct of oral stories as well. Many of the manuscripts and miniatures we have as art is actually poetic interpretations of the great myths and legends with illustration. The Ottoman Empire officially spanned from 1299 into the 20th century but saw influence from stories centuries before. The Ottomans also melded a great sum of cultures for you to draw inspiration from: Greek, Persian, Turko-Mongol, Mughal, Arabic, Hebrew, and the Steppes. I have focused here on what tends to be considered traditionally Ottoman or Islamic,  in period,  in terms of form, feel,  and verse.

Types of Poetry

·         Tekke - Religious poetry most notably associated with Sufism and Rumi. Most was anecdotal, enlightenment, or spiritual. In the 14th century there were a set of epics created to help the spread of Islam among the educated. Other sect poetry were from those chastising the orthodoxy of Islam. (Didactic)

·         Folk Poetry - Usually written by the less educated. Was a the voice of the common man sometimes bold statements of rebellion or speaking out against perceived injustices. May have been penned by scribes for the author as a means of communicating dissidence.

·         Prose - Was considered lowly, so much so that once the Divan poets had chastised it enough even the Tekke started to be written in verse.

·         Pangeric - poems of praise or public address. Here you will find odes, elegies and Propaganda.
In Arabic poetry is the boast (fakhr), the pangyric (madih) praise of a leader, and the satire of rivals (hija'). Combining of these components would create powerful speeches, elegies, or epic ballads.

·         Divan - Elite poetry written by the highly educated, nobility, and leaders. Most Divan poets went to schools where they learned the traditional forms in Arabic and Persian. Form was the focus of most Divan poetry yet eloquence and feeling was just as expected. Abstract metaphors for beauty and spiritual themes were rampant.  Throughout the forms of Divan poems the length of the relevant vowels seems to be the most important element. 

Divan also refers to collections of formal poetry usually compiled by the poet.  Formal    gatherings called meclis included performances of divan, music and manuscripts.

Poetry Forms

·         Ghazel: the lyric ode, with a minimum of five and a maximum of fifteen couplets (aa / ba /ca / da / ea) The initial couplet, the matla, should rhyme.  The end of each couplet thereafter should rhyme the matla. The final line, the maqta,  should act as the conclusion or point of the piece. The poet's name is sometimes part of the maqta as a signature/title. Redd-i matla is another way of ending the poem where the poet repeats one of the matla directly for a bookend effect.

·         Kasid/ Qasida  - rhyming couplets like the gazel, but running as long as thirty-three to ninety-nine couplets. Used for speeches and praise to Sultans (Pangyric).

·         Mesnevi - self-rhyming couplets in great quantities used for  narratives (poetic epics) or didactic works.  Ex: Fuzuli - Leylâ vü Mecnun

·         Mukhames - Stanzas of five lines with end rhymes that change each stanza.

·         Ruba'i  - Quatrains; Ex: The Ruba'iyyat of Omar Khayyam

·         Şarkı (Murabba) - couplets with themes of  love and levity; may have been set to music.

·         Musammat (extended versions of many of the other basic verse forms).

·         Aruz  - a measured prosody devised usually written in original Arabic of Persian because Turkish comprises more short vowels, where more long vowels were required. There are several meters of Aruz based on the measurement of long and short vowels in syllables where vowels at the end of syllables are short and consonants long.

                                Â-şık ol-dur kim kı-lar câ-nın fe-dâ câ-nâ-nı-na
·         Tuyuğ (a quatrain utilizing a specific aruz meter)

Some Notes About Research

When researching the Ottoman Empire and surrounding areas there are a few things you should keep in mind. The greater context of the Empire is a melting pot of cultures that were conquered, revered, or relocated.  The overall culture in the three hundred years we view it in society contains very little that changes drastically.  The Arabic calendar is about six hundred years earlier than our own so double check your dates. Translations to English are always subject to the view of the translator. Some translators are coming from the outside and miss the bigger picture. Some translators keep the original Islamic context and make a direct translation, others try to capture the voice and the meter, some only seek to make a piece accessible to a Western audience. Trying to understand the Aruz, for example, may require a better understanding of its root language before being able to truly determine if it is usable in English for recreation.

Two Poems For Translation Comparison

The poem does not appear to have a title but is by the 16th century  folk poet, Köroğlu. In this piece he is challenging the oppressive lord of a nearby region.

Here I send my greetings to the Bey of Bolu!
He should come up these hills and get his comeuppance.                                                                    
As the rustling of arrows keeps echoing through 
And the clanking of shields resounds off the mountains.

Then we were faced with legions of the enemy 
And on our brows appeared dark words of destiny.                                                                        
Rifles were invented—that ruined bravery:  
Now the curved sword has to stay in its sheath and rust.

Even so, Köroğlu’s fame as a hero will glow! 
Enemies will flee as I deal blow after blow, 
Covered with all that froth from my Gray Horse’s mouth,                                                              
And with my trousers steeped in the blood of the foe!

-Talat S. Halman

Greetings from me to the Bey of Bolu.
Let him come and lean against these mountains. 
let the mountains echo and reecho
the sound of the clash of arrows.

The enemy has come, in ranks;
the black script of fate is written on my white brow; 
the musket has come, manhood is spoilt;
the curved sword must rust in its scabbard.

Has Köroğlu fallen from his glory?
He sends many from the battlefield.
Our boots are filled, our garments are stained
with the horse's spittle and the foeman's blood.

- Bernard Lewis

Here is a set from Mihiri Hatun, a 15th century female poet's divan

Since, they say, woman has no brains or wit,
Whatever she speaks, they excuse it.

But your humble servant Mihri demurs
And states with that mature wisdom of hers:

Far better to have one woman with class
Than a thousand males all of whom are crass;

I would take one woman with acumen
Over a thousand muddleheaded men.

-Talat S. Halman

Woman, they say is deficient in sense
so they out to pardon her every word.
But one female who knows what to do
is better than a thousand males who don't.

- Bernard Lewis

Annotated Bibliography

Barks, Coleman. Translator. The Essential Rumi. Quality Paperback Book Club. New York. 1998.
                Organized topically with commentary on themes at the start of each section and some notes at the end.

Cowan, James. Translator. Rumi's Divan of Shems of Tabriz. Element Books Limited. 1997.
                Based on the original translation of odes by Nicholson (1898). The new translation attempts to correct an omission of meter that makes it a more melodic presentation. Excellent history of the      friendship and spiritual development between Shems and Rumi spanning nearly half the book.

Encyclopaedia Iranica. "ʿARŪŻ: The Metrical System Used by the Arab Poets Since Pre-Islamic Times." 26 May 2015.
                A guide to Aruz measured meter that is in much clearer English.

Faroqhi, Suraiya and Arzu Ozturkmen, Editors. Celebration, Entertainment and Theatre in the Ottoman World. Seagull Books, London. 2014.
                Many scholarly articles on the subjects listed in the title. A lot of the information is post 1600. I would assert that anything up to 1650 is fair game based on cultural cycles and sultanate of the time. Ottoman history and culture didn't move at the same rate as Europe and it is hard to compare it in terms of historical re-creation. Discusses social and formal poetic gatherings.

Fitzgerald, Edward. Translator. Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam. Illustrated Editions Company, New York. Fifth Version 1889, Publication Date Unknown.
                12th century Persian astronomer poet.

Ghiselin, Ogier de Busbecq. Translated by Edward Seymour Forster. The Turkish Letters of Ogier Ghiselin de Busbecq. Louisiana State University Press. Baton Rouge, LA. 2008.
                [Primary] Imperial Ambassador at Constantinople to King Ferdinand 1554-1562. Translated from the Latin of the Elzevir Edition of 1633 by Edward Seymour Forster, 1927. Contains an immense amount of cultural and political information from a primary view. I constantly draw from this source as inspiration and for appropriate usage of culture or item in poems and stories.

Gibb, Elias John Wilkinson. A History of Ottoman Poetry Volume 1. University of Michigan. Digital Copy provided by google books. Original printing Luzac & Co., London. 1900. id=FStkAAAAMAAJ&printsec=frontcover&output=reader&authuser=0&hl=en&pg=GBS.PA51
                This is part of a collection of several volumes that have collections of period poems in varying styles.

Gibb, Elias John Wilkinson. Ottoman Literature: The Poets and Poetry of Turkey.  2012 Forgotten Books
                Facsimile Reprint: M. Walter Dunne, Publisher, London.  1901. "Translated from the Arabic with introductions and biographical notes by the author. With Arabian, Persian and Hebrew poems   and special Introduction by Theodore P. Ion, J.D. " Contains many pre 17th century poetry examples and poet biographies. Has a section of  Persian and Arab poems.

Halman, Talat S. A Millennium of Turkish Literature: A Concise History.  Syracuse University Press. Syracuse, NY 2011.
                Contains a fair amount of information on structure and cultural importance. Not  many examples but, does offer comparative examples to other translated versions of poems in other   sources.

Lewis, Bernard. Music of a Distant Drum: Classical Arabic, Persian, Turkish & Hebrew Poems. Princeton University Press. Princeton, NJ. 2001.
                Translation by author. Includes mini biographies of poets, and brief discussion of poetry               structures and cultural importance.

Lowry, Glen D. with Susan Nemazee. A Jeweler's Eye: Islamic Arts of the Book from the Vever Collection. The Sackler Gallery: Smithsonian Institution. University of Washington Press, Seattle and London. 1988.
                An excellent collection of Ottoman, Persian, and Mughal miniatures with descriptions of the stories they are illustrating.  The stories themselves are poems.

Lyons, C. Malcolm: Translator. Tales of the Marvelous and News of the Strange: The First English Translation of a Medieval Arab Fantasy Collection. Penguin Classics, London. 2014.
                Has excellent descriptions of story archetypes and mechanisms. Uses poetry heavily as a             storytelling element.

Kwiatkowski, Will. The Eckstein Shahnama: An Ottoman Book of Kings.
                Study of an 11th C. Persian Manuscript rewritten for the Ottoman Court (16th C.) Contains one of the many tellings of the adventures of Iskendar (Alexander the Great).   The stories           themselves are poems.

Tagore, Rabindranath Translator. Songs of Kabīr. Samuel Weiser, Inc. York Beach, Maine. 1995.

                Collection of 15th century Indian (Dehli Sultinate) poems heavily influenced by Rumi and other Tekke poetry.  Kabir tried to find common ground between Hindus and Muslims in a time where the Mughal Islamic state was growing. 

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