This panel showcases processes of continuity and influence among Persian poets and literary historians in the Timurid and Safavid periods, and demonstrates how a sense of historicity informed the creative process. The first paper argues that the Safavid prince Sām Mīrzā compiled his biographical dictionary Tuḥfa-yi Sāmī as an exercise in post-canonical Persian literary historiography. He was concerned neither with a narrow range of great poets nor with an historical framework, but rather he wanted to tell the story of poets of his time, high and low, good and bad. He was demonstrably influenced by the examples of 'Alī Shīr Navā’ī, ‘Abd al-Raḥman Jāmī, and Dawlatshāh Samarqandī, but was also innovative in his expansion the parameters of the canon. A second paper looks at examples of response (javāb) poetry in the Safavid age, chiefly those written by Mohtasham Kāshāni to the ghazals of Jāmī. Commissioned by Shāh Tahmāsp’s daughter, Pari Khān Khānom, these responses demonstrate that Safavid enmity towards Jāmī was not all-encompassing, and also serve notice of the emergence of maktab-e voqu‘, the “realist school” that dominated Persian lyric poetry in the sixteenth century. In one example, the distant relationship between the speaker and the beloved in Jāmī’s ghazal is transformed into a dramatic dialogue in the javāb by Kāshāni. The relationship between Pari Khān Khānom and Kāshāni is the subject of a third paper, in particular the qaṣīdas he wrote for her. These qaṣīdas not only situated Pari Khān Khānom in a long line of paragons of female virtue and power e.g. Bīlqis and Fātima, but also projected her authority to the audiences of the day. These panegyrics sought to persuade the audience that Pari Khān Khānom was more than the equal of her male peers. The final paper looks at an exercise in translation in the late Timurid period, in which a poet known only by the pen-name Sā'il rendered 250 of Navā’ī’s Turkic ghazals into Persian. The work is an example of a rare phenomenon, as translations tended to go in the other direction, and Sā'il was having to work under the pressure of producing not just simply workable but acceptable translations for an informed Persian audience.
The Tuhfa-yi Sami, a biographical dictionary of Persian poets (i.e. tazkira) written around 1550 CE, is an unusual document on a number of levels. It was compiled and written not by a professional poet, nor by a learned court official, but rather by a Safavid prince named Sam Mirza, one of the brothers of Shah Tahmasp. My research into the career of Sam Mirza reveals that he wrote the Tuhfa-yi Sami while living in Ardabil in the late 1540s and early 1550s. (The implication is that he was there under house arrest, due to his history of disloyalty to Tahmasp, as well as the rebellion of their other brother Alqas Mirza.) This is a tazkira written by a member of the ruling house, apparently as a self-financed project and with no commissioned requirements as to its content or form. What we find is that Sam Mirza was concerned not with writing a new comprehensive history of the practitioners of Persian poetry, but rather with collecting information about people who were composing verse during (or shortly before) his lifetime. A further unusual aspect of the Tuhfa-yi Sami is that it contains notices on many individuals who wrote poetry, but not for a living – and in fact a number of them are mentioned as practicing humble trades. What I intend to argue, above all, is that the Tuhfa-yi Sami hints at a post-canonical moment in Persian poetry. Sam Mirza, free to write whatever kind of tazkira he likes, goes back no further than the mid-15th century CE. He appears especially under the influence of such figures as ‘Abd al-Rahman Jami, Dawlatshah Samarqandi, and Mir ‘Ali Shir Nava’i, and his tazkira gives the impression that the Persian poetic tradition had been crystallized in late Timurid Herat. There are also points in the Tuhfa-yi Sami at which the author makes almost open reference to the conventional nature of verse. With all of this in mind, we can look at this tazkira as an important source on the process of canon formation in Persian poetry. It may also provide us with new insight on the literary innovations that were already taking place during Sam Mirza’s life, and which would go much further throughout the Safavid-Mughal era.