Saturday, May 23, 2009

Surprise in Mystic Poetry | Daniel Ladinsky and Hafiz

1.
Hafiz's poetry is known for its focus on the experience of love. In fact, the body of his work forms an encyclopedic description of love's states and stages. Because of this, it is tremendously popular in the East. Hafiz couplets are quoted more often than is Shakespeare in the West. Laborer, prelate, scholar, housewife, merchant and artist alike are ready to spice their conversation with sayings of Hafiz.

Hafiz has now become accessible to readers of English through the efforts of American translator Daniel Ladinsky. Ladinsky's renderings of the medieval Persian poet are characterized by qualities we do not often associate with mystical poetry: wit, irreverence, and mischief. His approach turns 180 degrees away from previous translations, notably those of nineteenth century English scholars. Almost all the classical Persian imagery has been updated. Hardly a nightingale or a cypress tree is to be found. Instead of quaint Oriental cliches, we are treated to imagery wit! h a distinctly colloquial tone. A mystic's ecstasy as sung by the Beatles, perhaps. Daniel Ladinsky has given classical Persian poetry a fresh look, as he shows in this poem:

We have all come to the right place.
We all sit in God's classroom.
Now,
The only thing left for us to do, my dear,
Is to stop
Throwing spitballs for a while.

Daniel Ladinsky has chosen to focus on Hafiz' poetic strategies, rather than a literal interpretation. Chief among the strategies Ladinsky has reproduced is the shock of invention to blow away the constraints of the rational mind. In this poem, translated with the title, "Of Course Things Like That Can Happen," the effect is fresh and contemporary. Here is an excerpt:

Once God made love to a great saint
Who had a hairy belly.
Of course things like that can happen!
And it was a surprise
Only to the novice on the path
When the saint's stomach began to swell
Just like a woman's ...
Of course things like that can happen!

For another example of Hafiz' tactic of surprise, look at this passage, also captured with stunning freshness:

The sun rolls through the sky meadows every day,
And a billion cells run
To the top of a leaf to scream and applaud
And smash things in their joy.

Wherever Ladinsky does retain Hafiz' original symbolism, he gives it a spin without losing the mystical meaning, as in this poem:

Bring your cup near me,
For I am a Sweet Old Vagabond
With an Infinite Leaking Barrel
Of Light and Laughter and Truth
That the Beloved has tied to my back.

Dan Ladinsky has done a great favor to all who, after Coleman Barks' work on Rumi, wish to read more Middle Eastern poetry. Along with Robert Bly's "Kabir Book," and the American audience Barks created for Rumi, we now have accessible and appealing versions of Persia's literary giant Hafiz. We can only hope to see more of this grand and ancient poetic tradition.

- From a curiously interesting customer review @ Amazon

2.
It has been said that just as every river is winding its way to the sea so every soul is returning to a glorious reunion with our source, God. ~Daniel Ladinsky

Daniel Ladinsky presents poems from the past in a new clarity. He not only translated these poems, he lovingly selected poems of great beauty and meaning.

While many of the poems do sing with his voice, a new understanding emerges and the message of an ecstatic union with God is very present. What is even more interesting than the poet's desire to worship God, is God's worship of humans, which can at times seem foreign unless you think of this as an admiration of His creation. Then, like two human lovers, God and mankind enter a space of love, adoration, blissful unconditional love and shared communion.

In this regard, the poems are ecstatically beautiful, although not always about God. There are plenty of love poems that seem to have been written for human lovers:

One regret that I am determined not to have
When I am lying upon my deathbed
is that we did not kiss
enough.

Hafiz influenced Emerson, Goethe and Brahms and Daniel Ladinsky explains how he wrote wild love songs to the world from God.

Priests also long for the love of a woman and yet maintain the vows they took and some poets compare their love to the vows the sun and the moon took as they will never touch. One of the most beautiful poems contains references to giving God a "pet" name and that he responded more to prayers when he was loved this way. I loved Rabia of Basra's poem about the moon once being a moth:

The moon was once a moth who ran to God,
they entwined.

Now just her luminous soul remains
as we gaze at it
at night.

Many of the poems are secretive, sensuous and tell stories from mythology. While many authors present poems without introductions, Daniel Ladinsky gives an introduction to each poet and the twelve chapters then become meaningful studies of a poet's life and longings. We learn about Tukaram and how he survived a famine or how Rumi was influenced by Rabia of Basra who was actually sold into slavery because of her beauty.

Meister Eckhart gives us insight into why we all want to be loved. St. Catherine of Siena talks about only wanting to "hear the hymns of the earth, and the laughter of the sky." So, there are many poems about nature.

Love Poems From God is a unique window from which to view spiritual love and you may find yourself writing your own poems, inspired by the beauty in this collection.

Featured Poets: Rabia, St. Francis of Assisi, Rumi, Meister Eckhart, St. Thomas Aquinas, Hafiz, St. Catherine of Siena, Kabir, Mira, St. Teresa of Avila, St. John of the Cross and Tukaram.

~ The Rebecca Review

3.
Daniel Ladinsky has done an interesting job of rendering Hafiz's verse into English. Ladinsky has an ear for rhythm and he strikes me as an individual with deep spiritual sensibilities. When he renders one of Hafiz's couplets as "The body a tree./God a wind", one senses that there's more going into this translation than just philological expertise. Landinsky, like Hafiz, is a mystic.

That spiritual bond with Hafiz, as well as a shared joy in the sheer vitality of creation, makes Landinsky's renderings light-hearted, in the sense that they shimmer with what Hafiz would call God's Light. Some of my favorite examples:

Whenever
God lays His glance
Life starts
Clapping.





What is the beginning of
Happiness?

It is to stop being
So religious.







All the talents of God are within you.
How could this be otherwise
When your soul
Derived from His
Genes!


# Related:
. Daniel Ladinsky, Vision of Hafiz
. I Heard God Laughing: Renderings of Hafiz
. Books by Daniel Ladinsky via Amazon Search
. Love Poems from God by Daniel James Ladinsky (limited preview by Google Book) Pin It Now!

LinkWithin