Hafez “Made New”

Gardens of the World, Wine, Love, Wisdom & Ecstasy

English-speakers have no need to retranslate Blake, Emily Dickinson, or Shakespeare, but it is apt for classics of non-native world literature to be “made new” for contemporary generations.  Hafez is no exception. On a par with Basho, Cervantes, Du Fu, Goethe, Homer, Pushkin, etc., he’s also in a class by himself ~ of Persian letters, the pinnacle, the apex, the zenith.

There, philosophy and poetry are not two separate categories. No surprise then for the West to first know of Persian philosophy through poetry (Attar, Hafez, Omar Khayyam, Rumi, Sa’adi). We might say that as Confucius is immortal in Chinese culture, so Hafez is in Iran. And his art thus provides a window into the universal, unique soul of contemporary everyday Iranian people, at home and abroad.

As source, we followed E H Sayeh’s divan. Moreover, we took our lead from adaptations (vignettes) by renowned filmmaker Abbas Kiarostami (may his memory be a blessing). The book’s also influenced by Stephane Mallarmé’s 1897 transformation of the book as reading device into book as spiritual instrument.  In other words, we really make Hafez new.

The book coheres as one, continuous medley, unfolding across five “gardens.” It begins with the world ~ the world at hand, inclusive of war and peace. At this beginning stage of our noble caravan, the reader might note how Hafez’s times and ours match, often quite closely. Here too they are introduced to his wise, compassionate, free nature, fearlessly speaking truth to power when the spirit moves. Then we explore gardens of wine, love, and wisdom, where the mundane and the divine always intertwine. A taste of ecstasy caps it all off.

In addition to a splendid forewords by Ari Honarvar, author of Rumi with a View, there’s a profile of Hafez (with a map commissioned for the book), an extensive glossary, in-depth translators’ notes, and bibliography. The audio edition is impeccably performed by Samara Naeymi.

More than just a new bottle for the ancient wine of Hafez, we hope his bones might live anew ~ that he may come alive and dance, and we with him. 

November 11, 2023

Press Release


Talking Points

Audio Edition

A month after the paperback, Tantor Media released the audio edition, narrated by Samara Naeymi. Here’s what Erfan had to say:

It touched my soul. I like the way she reads the poems as one long whole poem. This is very close to what we had in mind when we selected and arranged the poems. As you well know, we followed the model of traditional Persian music in arranging the poems, and I was rather skeptical whether our method would reveal itself to the readers. Now, with the audio version, I’m pleasantly surprised to see that the effort has paid off.

Listen to an audio sample here.


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Launch Event ~ Improvisations on Hafez *

Kjell Nordeson, drums/percussion & Gary Gach, voice
One hour; begins at 7:04
Bird & Beckett Books & Records, 10/1/23

Hafiz: Mystical Poet of Persia ~ Inter View with Jeffrey Mishlove, New Thinking Allowed 11/20/23

On Poetry by Amanda Holmes Duffy, Washington Independent Review of Books 9/23

Mary Cowper in Midwest Book Review, MBR Bookwatch ~ 11/23

Webinar ~ Have You Met Hafez? East West Center 10/5/23

Reverend James Ishmael Ford, Hafez Day Patheos ~ 10/12/23

Excerpt in Evergreen Review ~ The Iran Issue ~ edited by Porochista Khakpour

Inter View with Julia Chiapella, KSQD & The Hive Poetry Collective, 10/24/23
Poet Julia Chiapella is Director Emeritus of the Young Writers Program.
The Hive Poetry Collective brings a diverse community together in appreciation of all kinds of poetry by all kinds of people.

Tell Me More About the World, webinar with fellow panelists Chelsea Iversen & Mojgan Ghazirad, moderated by Dodie Ownes, presented by Brodart 10/4/23

Bringing Inspiration to Earth, inter view with Robert Sharpe 10/31/23

Out of the Fog, inter view with Karen Hager


Erfan Mojib’s candid response to Improvisations on Hafez:

I think when a poem travels to a new language it has to survive a different set of rules. I don’t think your reading was bombastic or anything like that, but it was very different from what I had in mind, particularly because of the nature of the drums, which tend to have an epic rather than a romantic/gloomy aura. Hafiz poetry is usually sung with a gentle piece of music played by a flute, setar, or kamanche in the background. I’m not saying we have to stick to this Persian tradition, but you might want to listen to a few examples to get some ideas.

Here is a short one I particularly like – played by Keyhan Kalhor and sung by the late Sayeh