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here a few, there a few

on here a few, there a few:

here a few, there a few is a recitation of Rumi’s poem popularly known as Andak Andak in the original Persian. The title here a few, there a few comes from the opening line of Franklin D. Lewis’s English translation of the same Rumi poem.

I have sang choral music in other languages before, but this was the first time I had recited a spoken piece in a language other than English that I did not understand. At first, it was a very strange experience, trying to memorize the phrases felt awkward and out of place, like trying to fit a square peg in a round hole. Eventually, however, I started to adjust to the experience. And I came to find that it was actually similar to experiences that I have had before.

As a trombonist, something I have always admired about instrumental music is the ability to convey emotion and beauty beyond the scope of language. Reciting this poem, although I was speaking a language, felt similar to these experiences in band. It is less about understanding the speech, and more about the sonic beauty, the rhythm (beautifully conveyed in Mohsen’s recitation on the Canvas page, which I could not quite capture), and the rhyme. We had talked about the beauty of the oral/aural experience of recitations in class, but it was only upon producing my own that I really came to understand what we had discussed. The experience of reciting Andak Andak was beautifully moving, and something that, as a unilingual humanities student who laments being limited to translations, I deeply relished.

As to the meaning of the poem, it was really interesting to see the differences in translation (the only way I could grasp content) on the Canvas page as well as translations I found online. Translators have so much power, and I find differences in form among translation to be fascinating  — the verse-like lines of the Arberry translation in comparison with the shorter quips of the Lewis (complete with meter markings). In this way, even if content among translations are similar, the differences in visual line-breaks on the page can turn into different readings, both in understanding and performance. While the Rumi (regardless of translation) is still beautiful in English, there remains something so sonically entrancing about the poem in the original language that eludes translation. Similarly, for another class this spring, I read The Book of Job, and it was fascinating to see differences among meanings between translations — and how as a religious text, our theologies are so shaped by the translations that we chose to read and accept. Granted, the Book of Job is famously hard to translate, but the point remains.

All in all, reciting Andak Andak in Persian was a really powerful testament to the beauty of oral recitation, and an experience that I thoroughly relished. I hope you enjoy my reading!

Note: reflection is from Week 9 Experiential Learning Activity

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