Hafiz’s Little Book of Life

Constructing a manuscript is invariably a journey of wonder – one which begins long before the writing of the first initial capital letter of the first word – and not over and done by dotting the final period at the end of the last sentence.

And today ( Valentine’s Da&y), Hafiz’s Little Book of Life * – once a manuscript, is now available for pre-order. [ Publishing Date: October 2 ] Until then — here’s a preview.

Meanwhile, I pause, breathe, smile — & recall where this one all began …


So, there I was — pounding the pavement (in my sandals), knocking on doors of publishers, with a query letter and proposal for The Book of Absence, a translation collaboration between Erfan Mojib and me. Publishing veteran Greg Brandenburgh had once tapped me to endorse a book of his, so he was on my list. He said, “No thank you – but … ” … and asked if we might be interested in translating Hafez. At Hampton Roads he’d recently brought forth 3 excellent editions of Rumi**, translated by Maryam Mafi  and Azima Melita Kolin in their new Little Book of … series [ Jane Austen, Virginia Woolf, Sufi stories, Kahlil Gibran, Meister Eckhart (translated as poetry), and so on ].

I was honored yet also aware of The Untranslatability of Hafèz. And yet, as poet Robert Kelly once put it, every language is a second language. So I relayed the invitation to Erfan Mojib. A couple of days later, Erfan showed me some pages from Wine, by film renowned filmmaker Abbas Kiarostami. He’d isolated single lines, as close-ups, and edited them into brief poems.

We tried a couple and they looked good. Hampton Roads agreed. But they said they’d need more than one poem per page. So we agreed to let the poems dictate their placement on the page. Erfan and I then enjoyed a paradise of collaboration, across a GoogleDoc with GoogleDuo (now GoogleMeet). A second divine collaboration occurred when it came time to transform manuscript into print. Zoom became the medium of choice as Kathryn Sky-Peck reviewed the typography with us (herself, a poet painter dancer). Ari Honarvar generously provided a splendid introduction.

Here’s what a few advance readers have said thus far …

-/ t o | b e | c o n t i n u e d … … …

* The publisher is aware that the Persian pronunciation would be Hafez. Yet they have bowed to the spelling initially recommended by the Library of Congress and as used today in the field of Islamic scholarship. 
** As Omid Safi once put it, if Rumi is a tumultuous ocean of love, Hafiz is an illuminated and many-faceted diamond.

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