Hafiz, a secret Sufi, came to prominence in his day as a writer of love poems. That love transformed into an all-consuming passion for union with the divine. In The Gift, Daniel Ladinsky bestows on us the impassioned yet whimsical strains of Hafiz's ecstasy. Never forced or awkward, Ladinsky's Hafiz whispers in your ear and pounds in your chest, naming God in a hundred metaphors.
I once asked a bird,
"How is it that you fly in this gravity
Like Fitzgerald's version of Khayyam's Rubaiyat
, the language of The Gift
strikes a contemporary chord, resonating in the reader's mind and then in the heart. Ladinsky's language is plain, fresh, playful--dancing with an expert cadence that invites and surprises. If it is true, as Hafiz says, that a poet is someone who can pour light into a cup, reading Ladinsky's Hafiz is like gulping down the sun. --Brian Bruya
Less well known in the U.S. than his Sufi predecessor, Rumi, Hafiz (Shams-ud-din Muhammad) is also worthy of attention, and Ladinsky's free translations should help see that he gets it. Hafiz is so beloved in Iran that he outsells the Koran. Many know his verses by heart and recite them with gusto. And gusto is appropriate to this passionate, earthy poet who melds mind, spirit, and body in each of his usually brief pensees. Ladinsky has deliberately chosen a loose and colloquial tone for this collection, which might grate on the nerves of purists but makes Hafiz come vividly alive for the average reader. "You carry / All the ingredients / To turn your life into a nightmare--/ Don't mix them!" he advises, and "Bottom line: / Do not stop playing / These beautiful / Love / Games." Nothing is too human for Hafiz to celebrate, for in humanity he finds the prospect of God. In everything from housework to lovemaking, he celebrates the spiritual possibilities of life. A fine and stirring new presentation of one of the world's great poets. Patricia Monaghan
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