The New Divan: Genesis


Its been a while since I posted on my blog, but a new project has just popped into my psyche which will have a natural home here. The subject matter is the transcreation of a book called A New Divan, recently released by Gingko. It had been inspired by the 200th anniversary of a collection of poems by Goethe, itself inspired by works of the medieval Pesian poet, Hafiz. I had no idea either existed, & thoroughly enjoyed my education into the texts at the recent Edinburgh International Book Festival, of which you can read more of here.



The main premise of the book is to mirror Goethe’s subjects & themes using an international array of poets, whose creations would then be translated into English by another set of pets. Like a poetical UN. Intrigued, I requested a review copy from Gingko, which duly arrived yesterday. Running through the poems gave me the distinct impression that the collection was unfinished – that to match a production by Goethe, & the musical poetics of Hafiz, a single synthesizing mind had to work the ‘notes’ to order. With yesterday also being my last day reviewing at the Edinburgh Fringe, & with a full month’s worth of poesis stored in my creative antechambers, the catalyst had been sparked. I felt almost like Hammer did when hearing Hafiz in the original Persian for the first time, now compelled to translate it into German.  I felt almost like Goethe did on hearing Hammer’s translation for the first time, now compelled to create a western reply to Hafiz.


This morning I set to work. The vast majority of Goethe’s Divan is cast in octosyllabic metre, with simple but effective rhyme schemes. This of course I had to emulate, into which mould I would try & replicate the literary trickery of high-brow Persian poetics. Ultimately its the spirit of Goethe we are trying to please here, and I’m sure he’d be quite averse to Free Verse.

Its still early days of course,  but a project worth pursuing. This morning I began transcreating the openings of five of the 24 poems, & am satisfied, even happy, with the effort thus far. Once I have opened all 24 poems – perhaps this evening in the Lammermuirs – I will then turn to them one-by-one & publish them here in 2s or 3s. The resulting piece, then, drawn from A New Divan, I shall name THE New Divan. 


Hafiz, Herr Goethe, wait for me!

Forming triplet fraternity,

By chance, or not by chance, I heard,

Entrancing dances of the word,

Rose Voice of East, rose Voice of West,

Where voices lay choice words to rest,

I’ll pluck them up, I’ll dust them down,

Then cap them with my laurel crown.



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