Thursday, March 18, 2010

Rabia Balkhi

Rabia Balkhi was a 10th c. poet, and the first farsi-language woman poet. Her story is quite intense. She falls in love with her Turkish slave, Baktash, and as punishment, her brothers slit her with razors all over her body. She is left in a hamam, a steam bath, to bleed to death! Her last poem to Baktash is written in blood on the walls of the hamam. There have been many paintings of her last poem. She is only in her towel and desperately writing her last poem.


By Rabia Balkhi

I am caught in Love's web so deceitful
None of my endeavors turn fruitful.
I knew not when I rode the high-blooded stead
The harder I pulled its reins the less it would heed.
Love is an ocean with such a vast space
No wise man can swim it in any place.
A true lover should be faithful till the end
And face life's reprobated trend.
When you see things hideous, fancy them neat,
Eat poison, but taste sugar sweet

Now that is turning blood into ink!

Her tomb still exists in Mazar i Sharif. Young couples pray at her tomb in hopes of having their relationship succeed. One who dies for love is a saint in the Muslim tradition. Look at Layla Majnun, Sooni Maywal, and Heer Ranja. All stories of tragic love that elevates the lovers to a mystical/spiritual level. Through intense love of another one discovers love of God.

"In Mazar stands the Tomb of Rabia Balkhi, a beautiful, tragic medieval poetess. She was the first woman of her time to write love poetry in Persian and died tragically after her brother slashed her wrists as punishment for sleeping with a slave lover. She wrote her last poem in her own blood as she lay dying. For centuries young Uzbek girls and boys treated her tomb with saint-like devotion and would pray there for success in their love affairs. After the Taliban captured Mazar, they placed her tomb out of bounds. Love, even for a medieval saint, was now out of bounds."
- from the book Taliban, by Ahmed Rashid

Perhaps it is her story that made me want to become a poet. Her story and the story of Sadi's daughter who out-writes her father. Quite lovely feminist stories my father used to tell me when I was a little girl.

This clip is a song that Baktash sings. The playback singer is Ahmad Wali. I believe this film was made in the late 60s. Hollywood created Afghan Films in 1968, so I imagine it is slightly after that. I am much too lazy to be clicking and researching for you at this late hour. So, you'll have to take my laziness into consideration when doing your research.

The first Afghan film is the story of Rabia Balkhi and Baktash. It's a humble attempt but quite remarkable in telling the story of a woman poet and it was the first film that had an international run.

Lots of firsts in this entry!

Oh yeah, besides being a poet she was also a Queen. Did I forget to mention that little detail?

Here is another image from the film with the Afghan actress Seema playing the Poet Queen:


May Well Very said...

Thank you for this wonderful post. I just linked it to the facebook page for our Persian Poetry Project. Please take a look if you have a chance:

Afifa said...

Aw, I love this. Especially the Rabia Balkhi poem and actually your entire page. So this is what a professional writer's/blogger's page looks like--NICE! love you Z!