Poetry Out Loud - recitation contest - Mississippi Arts Commission
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In Isfahan, however, hope is a commodity in sharp decline. The elegant urban landscape that survived invasions by Afghan tribesmen and Mongol raiders is now threatened by negligence and reckless urban development.
Mazaheri and Moslemzadeh are members of a new generation of Isfahanis who want to restore not just buildings but their city's reputation as a Persian Florence, one they hope will one day enthrall Westerners with its wonders once again.
Inside the cool and dark interior of the house that is their current focus, the freshly painted white stucco ceiling bristles with scalloped stalactites. Delicate gilded roses frame wall paintings of idyllic gardens. Paradise is a Persian word meaning "walled garden. Even the fireplace damper is shaped in the delicate figure of a peacock. Located just a short walk from the medieval Friday Mosque, the house is of classic Iranian design—a central courtyard surrounded by rooms on two sides, a single entrance on the third and a grand two-story reception room with large windows on the fourth.
Rocket attacks during the war with Saddam Hussein's Iraq in the early s emptied this old neighborhood, and the house was badly vandalized. As Moslemzadeh guides Saljoughi's careful restoration effort, Mazaheri nods toward gaping holes in the reception room, which once held oak-framed stained glass that bathed the interior in a rainbow of vivid colors.
Just repairing the elaborate stucco ceiling took five professionals on scaffolding more than a year. Trained as a specialist in conservation techniques, the lean and energetic Mazaheri, 38, says he has built a restoration business that tackles anything from old ruins to 17th-century wall paintings.
Together with his colleague Moslemzadeh, who is 43 and studied art conservation in St. Petersburg, Russia, they are investing their time and profits to convert this wreck of a home into a teahouse where visitors can appreciate traditional Isfahani crafts, music and art. Like many Isfahanis I meet, they are welcoming to foreigners, refreshingly open and immensely proud of their heritage. Without a trace of irony or discouragement, Mazaheri looks around the half-finished reception room and says, "It may take five more years to finish fixing this place up.
Here a road traveling across the Iranian plateau east to the Mesopotamian plain meets a path connecting the Caspian Sea to the north with the Persian Gulf to the south. That geography linked the city's fate to the merchants, pilgrims and armies who passed through. Blessed with a pleasant climate—the city lies at nearly the same altitude as Denver and has relatively mild summers—Isfahan evolved into a bustling township at ancient Persia's crossroads.
A taxi driver, thumbing intently through his Persian-English dictionary as he swerves through dense traffic, offers to sell me a gold statue he claims is 5, years old.
I would be surprised if it were authentic—not least because such ancient artifacts remain elusive, making it difficult to pinpoint the precise era when Isfahan emerged as an urban center. What little has been found of the city's distant past I see in the basement of the cultural heritage office, an immaculately restored 19th-century villa just down the street from Mazaheri and Moslemzadeh's project.
A few boxes of stone tools sit on a tile floor, and a couple of dozen pieces of pottery—one incised with a writhing snake—lie on a plastic table. A few miles outside town, on top of an imposing hill, sit the unexcavated ruins of a temple, which may have been built during the Sassanian Empire that dominated the region until the Arab conquest in the 7th century A.
Within the city itself, Italian archaeologists digging below the Friday Mosque just before the Islamic Revolution found Sassanian-style columns, hinting that the site originally might have been a Zoroastrian fire temple.
The city's first recorded golden age is traced to the arrival of the Seljuk Turks from Central Asia in the 11th century. They turned the town into their capital and built a magnificent square leading to an enlarged Friday Mosque festooned with two domes. Though the mosque's southern dome—facing Mecca—is larger and grander, it is the northern dome that has awed pilgrims for a thousand years.
Peering up toward the apex 65 feet above the pavement, I feel a pleasant and unexpected vertigo, the perfect balance of harmony in motion. Peter's Basilica in Rome or St. Paul's Cathedral in London, there are no concealed chains holding either dome in place; the architects relied only on their mathematical and engineering abilities.
A meticulous analysis of the north dome in the s found it to be unusually precise, not just for the 11th century, but even by today's standards. More than a century later, inMongol troops arrived, sparing the architecture but putting many inhabitants to the sword. The city fell into decay and fighting erupted between rival Sunni sects.
Buildings were again left untouched, but Tamerlane's men added their own macabre monument in the form of a tower of skulls. It would be another two centuries before Isfahan would rise again, under the reign of Shah Abbas I, the greatest ruler of the Safavid Empire A.
He transformed the provincial city into a global metropolis, importing Armenian merchants and artisans and welcoming Catholic monks and Protestant traders.
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He was generally tolerant of the Jewish and Zoroastrian communities that had lived there for centuries. Most remarkably, Abbas sought to establish Isfahan as the political capital of the first Shiite empire, bringing learned theologians from Lebanon to bolster the city's religious institutions—a move begun by his predecessors that would have profound consequences for world history.
The arts thrived in the new capital; miniaturists, carpet weavers, jewelers and potters turned out ornate wares that enhanced the mansions and palaces that sprang up along spacious avenues.
Abbas was a man of extremes. A European visitor described him as a ruler whose mood could quickly turn from jolly to "that of a raging lion.
His true love, however, was power. He blinded his father, brother and two sons—and later killed a third son, whom he feared as a political threat, passing the throne to a grandson.
Abbas was nearly illiterate but no one's fool. He is said to have personally held up a candle for the celebrated artist Reza Abbasi while he sketched. Abbas could hunt, clean and cook his own fish and game. He loved to roam Isfahan's markets, eating freely from stalls, taking whatever shoes on display suited him and chatting with whomever he pleased.
The elegant main street was 50 yards wide, with a canal running down the middle, filling onyx basins strewn with the heads of roses and shaded by two rows of chinar trees. Gardens graced the pavilions, which lined either side of the promenade called the Chahar Bagh.
That conspicuous consumption came to an abrupt halt nearly half a century later, when an Afghan army besieged the city for six long months in Women hawked their pearls and jewels until even precious stones couldn't buy bread. An estimated 80, people died, most from hunger. The Afghans left most of the city intact. But that trauma—followed later by the transfer of the capital to Tehran far to the north—wrecked the city's status and prosperity. It's Friday morning—the Muslim sabbath—and the vast rectangular space is quiet save for the sound of the fountains.
Like many young people I meet here, my companion complains about rising inflation, government corruption and religious meddling in politics. He also fears a U. Four centuries ago, this square, which is also called the Maidan, was the economic and political heart of a prosperous and largely peaceful empire that drew foreigners from around the world.
But unlike vast concrete spaces such as Tiananmen Square in Beijing or Red Square in Moscow, Naqsh-e Jahan served alternatively and sometimes simultaneously as a marketplace, polo field, social meeting point, execution ground and festival park.
Fine river sand covered the plaza, and vendors peddled Venetian glass in one corner and Indian cloth or Chinese silks in another, while locals sold firewood, iron tools or melons grown with pigeon droppings collected from special towers surrounding the city. Acrobats passed their hats, hawkers called out their wares in several tongues and hucksters worked the throngs.
A mast in the middle was used for archery practice—a horseman would ride past it at full gallop, then turn to shoot down an apple, silver plate or gold cup on top.
Asylum-Seeking Student Says Nothing Can Stand Between Him And Poetry
Monga says fighting to compete in Poetry Out Loud was important to him — and others. Back in my country, I did not have anything about poetry, but poetry is something that I got to learn once I got here. You know, I did research. It's just something like — I developed feelings for it. It's like I'm in a relationship with poetry. On the teacher that introduced him to poetry Ms.
I mean, I was just sitting one of the days in our class, and she was like, "Do you wanna try this? It happened, and I will tell you, it is addictive. Your feelings, or passion for it, grows everyday. And honestly, I will not let anyone stand in between the relationship I have, I've grown for poetry.
And me, as an immigrant, I can come across a challenge. To me, I consider it as a challenge.
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They said I can compete. I had people, the entire Portland public schools, everyone has just gone above and beyond to make sure that I'm here today. And I don't know, that poem to me is just like music to my ears.
Matt Ozug and Bridget Kelley produced and edited the audio story. Sydnee Monday and Petra Mayer adapted it for the Web. To see more, visit http: They were cheering for Allan Monga, a junior at the school, who traveled to Washington, D. It's a competition run by the National Endowment for the Arts and the Poetry Foundation to recite great works of poetry.
Monga says he fled violence in his home country of Zambia, and he was initially barred from the national finals because he's an asylum seeker, not a U. Well, a judge recently granted a motion allowing Monga to compete.
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And before the start of today's competition, he came into our studios. Allan Monga, welcome to the program. Thank you very much. I'm glad I'm here. Why was it so important to you to compete in this that you were willing to sue to be able to do it? I am not the only kid who's an immigrant.
Like, the Portland Public Schools themselves have a huge body of kids from all over the world who are definitely in my situation. In your situation, meaning seeking asylum but not yet resolved. Seeking asylum, yeah, exactly. So I wanted to create a way that, like, kind of opened the door for everyone. But that is just something that I thought needed attention and, yeah.
Well, it certainly got attention. How did you feel when you found out you'd be able to compete? I was super excited. I think, in a good way, it added a little bit of pressure, like, I had to practice more. I just went in hard. I started practicing and, yeah.