The Book of Absence

It’s been such an honor, privilege, and divine delight to collaborate with Erfan Mojib, for five years, translating what will be Alireza Roshan’s first book in English. The Book of Absence is a complete sequence of 130 brief poems, each a “sharp d’art” penetrating the heart while also accumulating a gripping, dramatic momentum. 

Here, the author’s confessions of yearning and unrealized love are healed through his sincere candor and subtle imagination … and are transformed by his mystic sensibility, expressing what can never be completely put into words, and yet must be told, in order to live as a whole being.

It unfolds in three parts …

  • The Book of Me
  • The Book of You
  • The Book of No Thing

The mundane object of human longing and the divine Beloved mirror and magnify each other … intimate feelings of separation intensify existential sorrow … and unexpected fruit suddenly blooms. And it all coheres as a serial poem ( not unlike the form of Fitzgerald’s rendition of Omar Khayyam’s Rubaiyat ).

It’s a remarkable blend of Modernist refinements of classic Persian poetics … the Zen minimalism of haiku … and the universal fascination of love poetry.  

In a nutshell: “ Sufi Blues. ”


A few sprouts are becoming visible … so far, in Asymptote … Essential Voices: Poetry of Iran & Its Diaspora (Green Linden Press) Jacket 2 Poem-a-Day ( … Rattle … World Literature Today ( w/ audio of the poet reading ) …and Y’ALLA – A Texan Journal of Middle Eastern Literature.

Alireza Roshan ( born 1977, Teheran ) headed the Books desk at Iran’s reformist daily newspaper, Shargh. He initially gained fame as “a poet without a book,” publishing his brief poems daily on the Internet, for three years – attracting a following of thousands of readers. [Did they influence any of the now-famous Instapoets ? We don’t know. But they seemed a precursor.] In Teheran, a selection was published as The Book of Absence. In 2011, a selection was published in France as Jusqu’à toi combien de poèmes.

Besides The Book of Absence, he’s author of Busy, Cage Poetry, Fade, Leyli’s Shadow, A Little Book of Love Poetry, Moonstone, The Point & Other Stories, Suwayda, and We. Reza Aslan has called his poetry “remarkable.” In European Journal (Brussels), Michel Manasse noted his poetry reminds him of Omar Khayyam and Sa’adi. In personal correspondence, Elizabeth T. Gray, Jr., poet and translator of Hafez and Forugh Farrokhzad, writes of his poems : “ …  both modern and koan-like while remaining so distinctly Persian … absolutely stunning, and important ! “ After migrating to Izmir, he now lives in Hamburg.


-=> Proposal for Book Publishers


covers of books by Alireza Roshan


calligraphy by Alireza Roshan


random notes

Early in our collaboration, Erfan Mojib and I agreed the poems’ mysterious, penetrative, evocative nature needed no a formal introduction. Better to let the work speak for itself to each reader. Five years later, now that I’m no longer inside the material, as it were, and able to step outside and regard from a distance, I still agree.

Yet various insights are starting to come to me, which I’d like to record here …

.:. .:. .:.

Poet, writer, and psychoanalyst Nuar Alsadir speaks of writing as an authentic dialogue with your audience or your self. It’s interesting how this plays out in The Book of Absence.

The compactness and concision of these brief poems have reminded some readers of haiku. Yet haiku’s dialogue are “I / It” – where the “I” is often erased in its encounter with a luminous “It.” 

The Book of Absence, on the other hand, is an extended “I / Thou” dialogue – where “Thou” is silent.

.:. .:. .:.

This insight is an entry into some of the ways in which the entire book is infused with parallel, intertwining levels of dramatic tensions –


the poet speaks as ” I ” – as an objective eye but also a psychological inwardness, familiar through Shakespeare’s Hamlet … a book-length, extended monologue in fragments, of self-examination, within an existential world … both of which, within and around, we each can identify with


an unspoken dialogue between the legacy of classical Persian poetry and such modernist innovations as blank verse ( in Persan, sepid, “white” ), setting the birds of Persian poetry free from their cages of tight patterning of prosody and rhyme – yet still hearkening back to such classical images as the moth and the candle flame … the wind in a woman’s hair … …

the absence of this longed-for Other draws together another classical / contemporary binary : the diverse, rich tradition of separation from the Divine as a pre-condition on the spiritual path ( illuminated in Leonard Lewissohn’s anthology Hafiz and the Religion of Love in Classical Persian Poetry ) … and the Radical Theology of “G-d Is Dead” heralded by Novalis ( ” God is dead – and man is his prophet ” ), Nietzsche, Heidegger, etc


the one to whom the poems are addressed is intentionally doubly ambiguous – the Persian vocabulary is not specific as to he or she … moreover, it’s also unclear as to whether the object of love and longing is you or You ( the beloved / the Beloved ), the mundane / the divine. [Think of The Song of Songs; ” the Bride of Christ. “] This dialectic is not either/or, but both/and – as Hamid Dabashi phrases it in Persian Literary Humanism, the two mirroring and magnifying each other. …

-/ to be continued …







GG first read 20 work-in-progress translations in 2017, at a memorial for the bombing of Al-Mutanabbi Street — Baghdad’s cultural and intellectual center, named for a 10th century poet – one of multiple (annual) readings in the US & UK, and in Baghdad, Berlin, Dubai, Paris, Quebec, Venice, Sydney, and Vancouver. [ Video: Persis Karim | 5:22 ]

Introduced by SF Poet Emeritus, Jack Hirschman, GG reads translations of Alireza Roshan, plus Bijan Jalali, Edmond Jabès, ancient Chinese Zen poems, Ko Un, & a couple of his own poems,  [32:33]

Celebrating the launch of the voluminous, luminous anthology Essential Voices – Poetry from Iran & Its Diaspora, GG joined in on Night Two of readings, (Oct. 20, 2021) featuring Roja Chamankar, Armen Davoudian, Tyler Fisher, Persis Karim, Haidar Khezri, Leyla Momeny, George Reiner, Siavash Saadlou, and Niloufar Talebi. Night One (Oct. 19, 2021) featured Mansour Alimoradi, Kaveh Bassiri, Mandana Chaffa, Amin Fatemi, Mahdi Ganjavi, Fayre Makeig, Daniel Rafinejad, Parisa Saranj, and Ali Zarrin.


You are always the next poem

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