December 17, 2020

The Illuminated Hafiz: Love Poems for the Journey to Light

“In the end, our abode will be the valley of the silent ones. For now, let us raise a riot in the dome of the highest heaven.” -Hāfez*

A new translation of works by the celebrated poet Hāfez, The Illuminated Hafiz: Love Poems for the Journey to Light, gives English-speaking audiences a fresh look at this distinguished Iranian-cultural icon. Born in Shiraz, Iran in the 14th century, Khwāja Shams-ud-Dīn Muḥammad Ḥāfeẓ-e Shīrāzī, known simply as Hāfez—denoting someone who has memorized the Quran—was a Persian poet whose words are still recited today by millions throughout the world. 

Belonging to the great tradition of Persian literature and poetry with the likes of Ferdowsi and Rumi, Hāfez in many ways brings together the varied threads of Iran’s rich cultural history. Fusing poetry, mysticism, faith, love, and philosophical reflections, Hāfez offers a truly magnificent body of work, the meanings of which are still pondered today. More than a Persian poet, Hāfez has had an enormous impact on the works of Western artists through the centuries, such as Thoreau, Dickinson, Nietzsche, and Ralph Waldo Emerson who began translating Hāfez in the 19th century.

For Iranians, Hāfez is arguably their most-celebrated poet. Having a copy of Divan-e Hāfez on hand, which is a collection of the poet’s work, is a staple of many Iranian homes and his poetry has been used by renowned Iranian musicians of distinct genres, such as Shajarian and Mohsen Namjoo. In Iran, street vendors sell “Fāl-e Hāfez” to tell a person’s fortune or future, his tomb in Shiraz is a striking architectural attraction that commonly has visitors, and his poetry is often displayed on ancient holidays such as Nowruz and Shab-e Yalda. 

600 years later, the poetry of Hāfez with its ambiguity, leaves the modern reader room for interpretation. But what is evident is the magnitude of its reach, not only amongst Iranians, but also for global audiences that have enjoyed the works of Hāfez translated into many languages.

This new book is more than a translation, it is a collective endeavor by a team of artists, translators, and scholars—among them Michael and Saliha Green, Coleman Barks, Robert Bly, and Meher Baba (Merwan Sheriar Irani) with a foreword from Omid Safi, an essay from Peter Booth, and edited by Nancy Owen Barton—to capture the essence of a mysterious figure and share in his mystic journey. The theme of light aptly encapsulates the significance of Hāfez, whose words are known by heart for many Persian speakers and reveal something novel upon every rereading.  

The Illuminated Hafiz is a wonderful addition to any collection with its delightfully illustrated pages, and a perfect first book to start your journey with Hāfez. Reza Aslan puts it best, “Finally, Persia’s greatest poet receives a volume worthy of the sensual beauty of his verse. The Illuminated Hafiz is a feast for the senses.” The book is available at booksellers everywhere, get your copy here, or at your favorite local bookstore!

*Translated by Peter Booth

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