The New Divan: Greenshoots


In Edinburgh a soul can call its home
As classical as Athens, Thebes & Rome
With catacoombs quite gloomy underneath
I’ve heard them say some flume as far as Leith
City of Gargoyles in the sandy stone…


I am currently in the National Library in Edinburgh, typing up my first efforts at transcreating ‘A New Divan’ into the more uniform, Goethe-pleasing octosyllabics of ‘The New Divan.’ Over the weekend I got the rough openings to most of the 24 poems, which you’ll see shortly. Ive just had a book delivered to my desk which contains translations out of the Divan of Hafiz, from which I’ll transplant  a few nuggets into the text of The New Divan as we go. So without further ado, this is the state of play as of 12.35 on the 28th August, 2019.




After mountains of Albania’s
Glimps’d thro’ portholes & the haze,
All downy & yielding, like cultures
Under microscopic gaze,
After distant lakes of mercury
Let us see the peaks at last,
See the ragged shores of Thessaly!
As the plane touches downcast,
Meeting July’s deep melted tarmac
Open door hot furnace frees
But feels like paradise to be back
Among these the blossom lemon trees


RAOUL SCHROTTL: suleika speaks

Time after time, “Where are you from?”
Its all a blur, tormented bomb,
Dark memories of paths & routes
Laughing them off with substitutes;
My father hears the question too,
That same queer tone, that same brain screw,
Which drove him off from land & kin,
To taxifahrer, father’s chin
Gleams strong, when ends the night’s long shift
Wine glasses… one, two… he’ll uplift
Such keepers of our faith toast-rise
Shiraz into entempl’d skies!



FADHIL AL-AZZAWI: Paradise on Earth

I see it as I leave the inn
The dark of night, an evil djinn
Close follows me, each step I take
Each step I shudder & I shake
Furious dogs barking behind
Down hunting me, out flung from mind,
I should drive this road’s solitude
I must sing madly, loud & crude!


GONCA OZMEN: Knowingly Willingly

Insane the shadows that I taste
& speak to, tho’ I promis’d not

Love, keep me from my home displac’d,
Its nights especially boycott!


JAN WAGNER: Ephesus Ghazal

With tyrants who cavort like gods,
Our early day the shortest odds,
There so severe was one in faith
His painters perpetrate a wraith
With shaggy face & eyes like sleet
Young jasmine seven at his feet
Preparing freedom swift, they hid
Themselves, before Dawn lifts its lid


CLARA JANES: The Song of the One Who Pours the Wine

As Shiraz roses still upclimb
These pages thro, as does the chime
Sung by the Holy Fool that stands
Beside the well at dusk – my hands
Reveal the decorated cup
As if from it Jamshid did sup
Containing worlds within wine-pools
Where ripple stars, submerging jewels,


HAFEZ MOUSAVI: The Name of that Sad Dove

The Parsi couple returning
From bathing their baby’s ashes
Under morning’s hot sun’s burning
Passing sadly by charr’d flashes
Of Baucis & Philemon’s hut
From their bones burnt smoke still rises
Likewise guest skeletons in soot
Heavy-hearted Herr Faust sizes
His realm long prized,  stretching endless
From this tower-top – Ode to Joy
Rings out, Europa whole to bless!

Photograph © Beowulf Sheehan /PEN American Center

HOMERO ARIDJIS: The Creation of the World by the Animals

Across unmoving, dark blank sky,
Scarlet Macaw did flash & fly
Daybreak’s orioles yellow
With turquoise eyes, began solo
Dances of lightning honeybee
Sundering mighty Ceiba Tree



Unto the man I would return
Who inside, once, my shirt did burn

At each lip’s precipice I fret
To find the voice I once did set
Down-dangling from a ciggarette

I ask the card-turn to unshroud
The revelations thro the crowd
That sweeps away plant, bird & cloud


ADONIS: Letter to Goethe

I conjur’d, in the afternoon,
In your dear name, my night & moon,
I heard the Great Bear breathe & blow
Vain verses off to Earth’s blood flow
& in the cities, laws-wax seal’d
Found scrolls recited & reveal’d
To people made of wounds & bread
Who roam, asking the streets instead
Where do we come from, where’ll we go,
Erewhile the eastern moon did flow

My Spring of freedom, is it time
I’ll go on walking clime-on-clime
Does from the West the East now veer,
To ther moons offer its sphere,
I’ll go on walking – all allow’d
The soul is nothing but the cloud
Of sperm reveal’d as guises two –
Is it the image that time drew
With ink temptated yon amends
While space the other apprehends?

The West behind you but the East
Lies not before mine eyes releas’d
They are the river’s double sedge
One transcending the abyss edge
More than a rock, tis Sisyphus
Screaning the slopes, Sinbad wanders



KHALED MATTAWA: Easter Sunday, Rajab in Mid-Moon

A poet let us find down there
Beside the waves off Mozambique
Flown south had he to taste the air
Of those first migrants who did creak
Across the Earth, canoeing free,
Khidr’s eternal progeny!


DON PATERSON: Eleven Maxims from the Book of Ill-Humour

Unleash a poem slow enough,
Fie with vigilance & care
& you’ll discover lots of stuff
That quite simply is not there!

In the country of the two-eye’d
Sentiment still holds the same
The one-eyed man still puffs with pride
For he has the better aim!



Tell me, bent branch, how came ye here?
How did you pass thro’ cobalt wood
Thro’ shrouds of white, to reach the sneer
Where fat hyenas feast on blood.

The God we’ve worshipp’d for so long
Abandons us this very night
No longer do we set among
Sanguineous heaven, his light!


ABBAS BEYDOUN: Suleika & Marilyn

I heard my throat deep from the well,
The wolf my brothers’ summon spell
Invok’d, did hear & fled to Hell,
My shirt with others’ blood did swell
My father’s eyes were still a shell
But were they real; that shirt, that well?
Was desert a false infidel?
Was Wolf himself an actuelle?
What waited yon the parallel?
Of surfac’d Earth’s detention cell
But the Prophet’s road to Egypt!


Durs Gru?nbein 

DURS GUNBEIN: The Devil in the orient

Today’s slogan buzzword goes, ‘lie!’
newspapers, TVs, politics
Are duping voters with dark tricks
War’s still our master, as awry
Falls everyone – friends, enemies –
Morass’d by chutzpah perfidies
Reminding of the Auschwitz lie.


IMAN MERSAL: Your Smell is the World’s Dust

The fish the seller touts bushwhack
Belongs to the sea no longer
Washing lines & salt smell stronger
As I pass the woman in black.


ANGELICA FREITAS: The Peacock on the Roof

It flies, its up there on the roof
Of the hostel, extraordinairre,
At that same time a bird aloof,
I know not how it flies thro’ air
This ashram silence souls restore
Ten days of peacocks, none dare speak,
From sitting legs-cross’d on cool floor
My knees groan aching as they creak.


FATEMEH SHAMS: Electrocardiogram

My back she aches again today
Three months ago they moved my heart
& ledg’d my vital spine apart
Then wedg’d it in the vertebrae
Now each musk-fragrant breath depends
On one thin vein that empties blood
From darkness to new heart blood wends,
My idiotic bruise of vein
My wanton whore of heart, the pain
My back endures nobody should.
My ECG supplies, these days,
My news, headlines from past suck’d out –
A woman used to laugh about
Her love for one man & his ways,
When lavish hearts love’s healths endow
Form windows facing long exile,
These bunch’d red muscles bled servile
I wish it were a mirror, now!

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