Ispahan Carpet

“A broad entryway flanked by rose bushes led to the sprawling house of marble floors and wide windows. Intricate mosaic tiles, handpicked by Baba in Isfahan, covered the floors of the four bathrooms” (The Kite Runner, 4).

Ispahan Carpet

Elizabeth Burge
Rough timber gallows on which the carpets are woven
By a silent, sallow, dark-eyed Persian family,
Fills the room, bare but for blackened pots and jars
In the cavernous hearth. A flickering fire
Lights on the sensuous jewelled arabesques
Shadowing the makers of the webs.
Eight-year-old girls sit sparrowed on a plank
Rope-rising with the pattern, their unsupported bird-bones
Bent like old women. Only such little fingers,
Following the guides of coloured wool upon the warp
Left by their aunts and sisters,
Can tie such exquisitely minute knots —
One hundred to the square centimeter, says the guide proudly —
For the most desired Tabriz and Karmenshah.
One hundred knots in the space of my thumb-nail,
One hundred heart-beats of a young child’s growing,
One hundred hours for the space a foot will crush down.
O, eyes whose whole horizon is the carpet
And its traditional beauty! Who can unravel
The world’s weaving?
My swollen hand is gentle on the greenstick shoulder
Her large eyes look back at me with a speaking darkness.

Reading the poem

Poetry must always be read aloud. Start by reading the poem in your head three times. Then read it aloud twice. On the second time, try to take note of parts that sound interesting.

Definitions – Highlight these words on the poem.

  • Line 1: timber and gallows-
  • Line 2: sallow-
  • Line 4: cavernous and hearth-
  • Line 5: arabesques-
  • Line 7: sparrowed-
  • Line 10: warp-

The Literal

What is the poem describing? Where is probably set?

Scavenger Hunt

  • Imagery
  • Metaphor
  • Simile
  • Repetition
  • Diction (an interesting use of a word)
  • Alliteration
  • Cacophony

The Subject

Whois the poet describing? Use the two column planner to make a list of all the description about the girls weaving the shadowing the makers of the webs. –

The Narrator

Who is the narrator/observer in the poem? Make another list of descriptions.


Where is the poem set? Add description to your planner.

Now that you have looked at the details in the poem, show some of the images in the poem by using a picture.

Use FlickrCC to find a picture that represents ONE image in the poem.

Write the quote from the poem and what you think the significance of the quote is.”


Look at the word “greenstick”. What meaning is conveyed by this word? Come up with a list of words that might replace it.

The Carpet Weaver

Look at the following 3 lines of the poem:

  • Eight-year-old girls sit sparrowed on a plank
  • their unsupported bird-bones/Bent like old women
  • My swollen hand is gentle on the greenstick shoulder

Look back at your notes and review why you thought these lines were significant.

Poets will often combine devices (in this case diction and metaphor) to even more meaning. What do these 3 lines say in combination? Write a paragraph that discusses this. Use strong paragraph structure:

TS: Introduces what the main idea. What do these  lines say together.

Example: Exactly which word/s are you talking about?

Explanation: How does this idea link to the main idea?

Poetry Writing based on Isphahan Carpet

One the key features of this poem is the use of imagery and other figurative devices (metaphors, similes etc.) to express ideas about the topic. You have identified that poem is about child labour. Look at how Burge uses the sparrow metaphors and the references to fragility (greenstick, bird-bones vs. the swollen hand) to express how the poet feels about this topic. You will aim to do the same thing:

  1. Go to Flickr CC and search for an image that expresses or topic, “CHANGE”. (preferably social change but think outside the box!)
  2. Begin brainstorming. Make word-flowers (like we did when brainstorming Human Experience) on aspects of the image. Aim to not simply describe the photo, but find something in the photo then brainstorm words associated with this word.
  3. Select some aspects of the photo and brainstorm ideas that might be used to express ideas about features of the poem. Burges did this by comparing the little girl to sparrows etc.
  4. Once you have your ideas begin writing. Choose a structure – something you have tried before or something new?
  5. Draft several times. Keep each draft so you can select you best one!

Image: ‘IMG_1811.JPG‘.

Image: ‘…Just a Little Girl, Lost in the+Moment

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