By Sage Lerin Rahin
Throughout the ages, many poets have provided the inhabitants of the Deserts of Ro with literary delights.
Dervin poet Alyarrah Mahaat sometimes wrote her poetry by pouring different colors of sand onto a flat stone, letting the wind gradually erase the words. “Poetry is ephemeral,” she said when asked about this unusual practice. Alyarrah was originally a nomadic Dervin who was invited to be a Court Poet by Neriph, Caliph of the Court of Coin.
With works including ballads about the Dervin nomads, djinn-styled short form poetry and lyrical tales of love, Alyarrah’s poetry is considered as contemporary as it is timely. The world lost a great poet when Alyarrah died in an arena accident within a year of entering the Caliph’s Court. The position of Court Poet has gone unfilled since her death.
Before Alyarrah, Dervin poets were predominantly anonymous lyricists who chose to set fireside tales to parchment rather than lose their connections with the past. Storytellers often hold an exalted position within the Dervin community, although it is not an exclusive title or role. The nomadic Dervins who live outside Maj’Dul must provide many skills to their tribes.
When the Shattering occurred, many tribes were decimated and their oral storytelling traditions were lost. By setting the remaining tales down, current tribes hope to maintain the ancient lore and knowledge handed down through the generations. While some of the Dervin nomads are illiterate, there are scribes in Maj’Dul who are willing to transcribe their stories.
Prior to the Shattering, the work of Dervin poets is harder to obtain as much of it was never written down. Though many current volumes claim to contain exact transcriptions, it is impossible to be sure. And, of course, many poems survive in various forms, depending upon which tribe tells the tale. Generally, if an older poem is attributed to a specific elder poet, its source must be viewed with suspicion.
There are exceptions to this rule. Many of the poems by the Dervin poet Kish’Kah survived as they were primarily used in short messages between tribes. Marriage often intermingled different Dervin tribes, and whichever spouse moved to a new tribe would keep in touch with his or her former family by paying Kish’Kah to send a poetic greeting. His poems are no more than five lines, which makes them easy to identify.
Though not poetry in the strictest sense, some find the writings of the Alliz Raef Ew, or lizardmen, to be almost lyrical. Their storytelling style is distinctively archaic and often bloody. It cannot be denied, however, that they are capable of intense imagery. None of their tales are written in their original language. Only translations are available.
A typical lizardman poem includes an element of sacrifice, either an act by the protagonist or a victim of some horrific ritual. While such poems are not usually considered “art,” given the lifestyles of these scaled creatures, it is interesting that they would use any medium to immortalize such brutal acts. The market for Alliz Raef Ew poetry is miniscule, but enthusiastic.
While poetry has high value amongst the djinn, they generally do not record their own work. Instead, they rely on cast collections of poetry gleaned from other sources. Some of the volumes held by the djinn are said to date back to the Age of War, though there is no conclusive proof.
The djinn favor a short, three-line poem known as the “djinn short style.” These poems are amusing and often end with a subtle twist. The djinn will sometimes converse in this short form, evidently to amuse themselves. There are no celebrated poets in the short form for any published pieces are not credited to a particular djinn.