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Turkic Poetry and the “Fresh Style” in Safavid Iran
As part of a larger project about Turkic literature in early modern Iran, the paper discusses the position and innovative aesthetics of the so-called shiva-yi taza, “Fresh Style”—better known in Persian literature as the sabk-i hindi, “Indian Style”—in Turkic poetry in the Safavid period (1501-1722). It focuses on the Turkic verses of Vahid-i Qazvini (d. 1700), otherwise well known as a prolific Persian poet, a prominent chronicler, as well as well as grand vizier under Shah Sulayman (r. 1666-1694) and Shah Sultan Husayn (1694-1722). Through the close reading of select ghazals that display features of the “Fresh Style,” I will explore connections between Vahid’s Turkic poetry, his own Persian poetry, and other representatives of this style who wrote in Persian, such as Sa’ib-i Tabrizi. The “Fresh Style” does not characterize all of Vahid’s Turkic lyric output, just as much as it does not characterize all his Persian ghazals, either; nevertheless, its presence in his Turkic pieces signifies that Safavid Turkophone poetry was very much part of a larger literary conversation that sought to introduce a new epistemology to the poetic language. I will also demonstrate that in his experimentation with the complex and surprising features of the “Fresh Style” as adopted from Persian, Vahid also wrote paraphrases of the poetry of Fuzuli (d. 1556), one of the most paradigmatic Turkophone poets for both Ottoman and Iranian Turkic poetry. I will argue that, on the one hand, Turkophone poets’ engagement with both the Turkic literary past and the cutting-edge poetic developments of the age taking place in Persian was part of their cultural, religious, and political integration in Safavid imperial culture, and on the other hand, the relative scarcity of the “Fresh Style” in Safavid Turkic poetry shows the limits of this integration. At the same time, I will also demonstrate how in a premodern multilingual setting like Safavid Iran, literary identity was negotiated in a way that saw literary languages—in this case, Turkic and Persian—as connected and separated by porous boundaries, and as different linguistic realizations of a shared Persianate literary tradition.
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