“At the entrance of the United Nations there is a magnificent carpet – I think the largest carpet the United Nations has – that adorns the wall of the United Nations, a gift from the people of Iran. Alongside it are the wonderful words of that great Persian poet, Sa’adi. I quote:
All human beings are members of one frame,
Since all, at first, from the same essence came.
When time afflicts a limb with pain
The other limbs at rest cannot remain.
If thou feel not for other’s misery
A human being is no name for thee.”
These are the words of Ban Ki-moon the eighth UN secretary-general in his 2012 speech in Tehran. He hasn’t been the only foreign leader reciting the Sa’adi’s poem though -from the president of the US, Barack Obama to recently the prime minister of Spain, Pedro Sánchez, and so forth. The borderless perspective that Sa’adi was pointing out about 800 years ago is what the world crucially needs these days. Sa’adi is just one of the great Persian poets and his books are full of such wisdom.
Some other poets
Among other most influencing Persian poets we can remember Hafez at the top. Whose poems are found in nearly all the Iranians’ houses and they are familiar with many of his poems. “Hafez primarily wrote in the literary genre of lyric poetry or ghazals, that is the ideal style for expressing the ecstasy of divine inspiration in the mystical form of love poems.” as Wikipedia puts it.
Also, Rumi –who is known as Molana or Molavi in Iran- was another great Persian poet. His most famous book is Masnavi including thousands of verses that we can learn a lot from each. Even by non-religious rituals and beyond the Persian territory in the west and the east, Rumi is being studied and followed.
Read Masnavi of Molana (but remember: reading the translation may just transfer the meaning but not the enjoyment of poetry rhythm!): http://www.dar-al-masnavi.org/masnavi.html
Ferdowsi is another famous poet who is known mostly by his great book, Shahnameh, said to be the longest epic book in all time. His important proud was helping to revive the Persian language in his era by this book. The book is a myth about a hero called Rostam who is fighting not only for Iran but also for the transcendental human values.
It’s hard to introduce the ancient Persian poets and forget about Rudaki (known as the father to the Persian poem), Nezami, Attar, Khayyam, Khaqani, Baba Taher and many other ones. Their readable books are still remaining and studied internationally after many years. The list of ancient Persian poets is much longer, of course not possible to name them all here.
The stream of Persian poetry isn’t limited to the ancient ones though. In contemporary times we also see magnificent poetry. The poems at this time are more in a social theme. Among the popular poets during the recent century, I can name Bahar, Shahriar, Akhavan, Qeisar Aminpoor, and Sohrab Sepehry among the many others.
The most comprehensive website for Persian poetry: https://ganjoor.net/
Different functions of poetry
Iranian culture is absolutely mixed up with poetry. It’s a real art and mixed with other types of arts such as calligraphy, architecture, painting, and music. However, poetry in Iranian history is not just one type of art but the best way of transferring knowledge and wisdom. Hence most of the Iranian sages and the wisest men in the history of Iran have often had the skills of poetry. The poems were much influenced by religious beliefs and the Quran or the Hadith. It’s not wrong to say the Persian explicit local knowledge can be well studied and captured through its literature and especially the poetry texts.
From ancient times, poetry has been used in different parts of Iranian life, e.g. in weddings, in funerals, in religious events and rituals –Maddahi-, in fun and entertainment –comedy poems or competitions called Moshaereh-, and in daily proverbs. This was true, as well, and even more, years ago in my grandfather’s generation. They were trained at home and old school –called Maktabkhaneh- with the instructive stories in the Iranian poems, including the Sa’adi’s Bustan and Golestan. Both my grandpa and grandma had many verses of these poems in their minds. They had the ability to read related verses in any situation, adding emotional and moral motto to their daily communication. Unfortunately these days, many of the youths do not have the ability even to correctly reading the ancient poems of their origin or at least understand the meanings well.
Look at it a little bit more technical
Read about the main classic Persian poem styles, Masnavi, Robaey, Qasideh, Qazal, etc: https://www.britannica.com/art/Persian-literature/Classical-poetry.)
Of course, identifying with Persian poetry in a short essay is very difficult. Capturing the rich meaning, learning from, and enjoying the elegant stylistic elements inside the Persian poetry may not be appreciated except that one knows Persian well. But the embodied wisdom is never limited to a specific border or language. That’s what we can transfer to learn from each other.