The Illuminated Hafiz: Love Poems for the Journey to Light - Book Review

When I picked up the book, The Illuminated Rumi (published in 1997 by Broadway Books) featuring translation by Coleman Barks and Illustration by Michael Green, I was totally blown away. It was a testimony about how beautiful a book can be to hold, look at and read! It remains one of my most favorite book of all time.

Thanks to Coleman Barks, who made Rumi, the medieval poet and one of the best Sufi Poet from East, popular in contemporary English. His translations are a treat to the mind. Anyone who picks up translation of Rumi by Coleman Barks will almost for sure fall in love with Rumi's work.

Beholding The Illuminated Rumi back them, the artist in me was equally mesmerized with the beautiful illustrations of Michael Green throughout the book. I didn't know who Michael Green was at that time. Later found out that he is a student of Sufi Master Bawa Muhaiyaddeen.

Coleman Barks works of Rumi was blessed by the same Sufi Master as I discovered in an interview of Barks. In the footstep of medieval illuminated manuscripts, the illustrations in the Illuminated Rumi gave birth to a new genre all together in modern sufi literature. I am unaware of any such profound literary work with equally powerful visual treat in modern times and also in Sufi poetry.

Credit: Michael Green Arts website

Fast forward 2019, after almost 22 years, those who love Sufi Poetry, a special treat has arrived. Publishing house Sounds True has released The Illuminated Hafiz: Love Poems for the Journey to Light with vivid translations by Coleman Barks, Robert Bly, Omid Safi, Meher Baba, and others combine with Michael and Saliha Green's stunning illustrations to bring the immortal poetry of the great Persian master Hafiz to life. This book is designed as a companion/follow-on to The Illuminated Rumi.

Thanks to her generosity, I received an early review copy of the book from editor Nancy Owen Barton and I was not disappointed. The illustrations are superb in the familiar fashion of Michael Green, and this time also accompanied by his wife and artist Saliha Green. The Greens couple's work communicates to me that each illustration was given spacious thoughts and meditation syncing well with the written words. The illustrations are nothing too literal with the words, but equally poetic in their subtleness and symbolism. It is said that the primary function of Sufi poetry is to open one's heart and awaken the soul. The refreshing and surreal illustrations of Michael Green with the life giving poetic words of Hafiz helps do just that even more powerfully.

Page from Illuminated Hafiz
Page Sample from the Book: The Illuminated Hafiz

Known as “The Tongue of the Hidden Mysteries,” Shams al-Din Muhammad Hafiz of Shiraz is the most revered of Persian poets. This book is a significant milestone of Hafiz's work in the West.

The forward by Dr. Omid Safi sheds the subject matter of Hafiz’s poetry, “The intoxication that Hafiz speaks of here is sensual and spiritual all at once, defying any easy categorization. The Persian language has no gender associated with its pronouns, nor any capitalization. Is the beloved that Hafiz speaks of the young man who is pouring the cup of wine? A spiritual teacher? A female beloved? The Prophet? God? It could be any of them, and in a way that only makes sense in the universe of mysticism; it is all of them, all at once. Here is what ambiguity means in the context of Sufi mysticism: It is not that this love is earthly or heavenly. It is simply a reminder that all-pervading love erupts out of the Divine, bringing this world into being, illuminates this world, and carries us back to the source. Ultimately, this intoxication is esqh, “Radical Love.” Hafiz recognizes that love is the divine keepsake, simultaneously the unleashing of God onto this realm, and a reminder of the divine origin of Existence. Hafiz’s relationship with the Divine is tender and subtle. His is not a stern God but more of a perfect lover who draws you closer and closer.”

The collection contains other "grace note" contributors include Carl Ernst, Thomas Rain Crowe, Elizabeth T. Gray Jr.; Iraj Anvar, James Newell, Mehernoush Lorkalantari, Farshid Namiranian, Annemarie Schimmel, and with commentary by Jonathan Granoff. The book has all round touch by sufis by heart or by initiation. The illustrators, the editors and the translators of this book are all in one way or another are students of Sufi path and connected to Sufi masters. For example, in way of acknowledgement Michale and Saliha Green wrote how this work has been a fragrant remembrance of the thirteen years they spent with their teacher and sufi saint M. R. Bawa Muhaiyaddeen. Editor Nancy Owen Barton and translator, contributor Peter Booth are both connected with Meher Baba and his early disciples. Commentator Jonathan Granoff is also a fellow of Sufi Bawa Muhaiyaddeen. For any pioneering work like this one surely needs the grace of the illuminated masters.

Page from Illuminated Hafiz
Exquisite illumination by Artists Michael and Saliha Green from Illuminated Hafiz

"Michael and Saliha Green’s The Illuminated Hafiz is intoxicating.They’ve created an alchemical blend of brilliant translation and transcendent illustration to be sipped slowly as you are surrendered into the arms of the Beloved and awake in, with, and as the One Who is All." —Rabbi Rami Shapiro, author of Perennial Wisdom for the Spiritually Independent

When the One whom I love
accepts the wine,
Then the shop of false idols collapses.

I have dropped in a heap
on the earth, crying,
In the hope that I will feel
a touch of his hand.

I have fallen
like a fish into deep water
In the hope that the Friend
will catch me in his net.

Do as much as you can while you walk the earth,
for under the earth time holds many who can do nothing.

- Hafiz

What I love about the poems is that they are not exact cut and dry literal translation of Hafiz, but rather what most of the translator did was that they expressed similar sudden surprise and subtle allegories which are hallmarks of Hafiz, but this time in contemporary English. Those who are native Farsi speakers and have the experience of reading Hafiz in original, they often get frustrated seeing the modern translations in English. Often they protest 'this is no translation', 'I can't find Hafiz's word anywhere!' This is understandable because no translation can do any justice to poetry, specially for towering poet like Hafiz. But for the people of another language, what matters most is the spirit of the poet and their poetry. They are more of a newer version of Hafiz in English, rather than literal translation. The translations of Hafiz in these pages are best approached and appreciated in this mindset. For the mystics, those who love God, many shades of sweet knowledge of God that pours from these pages will surely quench the thirst of our often starving soul that wish to hear the music of the Beloved and any whispers that remind us that unspeakable longing of separation.

God is
 the bird
 of paradise.
 Do not try to
 snare Him by
 spreading the net
 of your thoughts.
 In that net you will
 find nothing but mind.

~ Hafiz

Hafiz’s poems have the recurring theme of intimate love for the Divine. His poetry had such profound impact that they spread through the East in his lifetime, then into the West, influencing such luminaries as Emerson, Brahms, Queen Victoria, Nietzsche, and Garcia Lorca. Today, nearly 700 years after his death, the unmatched genius and bold wit of Hafiz continues to ignite hearts and intoxicate souls everywhere. The biography in the book of the poet himself was no less an exciting read than the poems and this beautifully crafted biography of Hafiz was contributed by Peter Booth, internationally acclaimed Persian scholar (study at Harvard with Annemarie Schimmel, later in Iran), poet and translator of Hafiz. Peter is co-author of the book Dante/Hafiz.

The biography in this book covers not only the important spiritual developments and their context of Hafiz but also touches upon the time and land where Shams ud-Din Muhammad became world-famous Hafiz. The influence of Hafiz on other world famous poets across time and space as well as the significant impact on the Persian language of poetry that Hafiz had is also well captured in the very biography. For novice and experienced alike, Peter Booth's Glossary of terms added in the book, contains terms used widely across all of Hafiz's poetry will be a great resource and companion.

The subtitle of the book is called Love Poems for the Journey to Light, and let me quote few lines from the book which talks about the destination of the Journey to Light:

The Journey to Light reaches its ultimate fulfillment 
when the clarity of pure wisdom 
realizes the Great Mystery
 of God’s Infinite Love resonating in the human heart.

If you love to be touched by beauty and truth at the same time, allow your heart to be caressed by The Illuminated Hafiz! I hope and pray that readers' reading of each poems of this book will help resonate and remember in our hearts the Great Mystery of God's Infinite Love.

The Hard Cover book will be available on sale from 12th November 2019. Find the book here on Sounds TrueAmazon, Amazon Canada, Amazon UK, Amazon Australia and Amazon India.

+ Click here for a PDF SAMPLES via Sounds True Publication

# Related:

* Daniel Ladinsky ~ On His Poetry, Spiritual Journey and Intimacy with Hafiz

Coleman Barks | Vision of Bawa Muhaiyaddeen and Rumi

* Daniel Ladinsky | Vision of Hafiz

* Hafiz scholar Peter Booth talks and recites Hafiz (VIDEO)

* Sohbet with Dana Hayne | Quest for Holy Wisdom

Secret Shared by Sufi Master Bawa Muhaiyaddeen | Jonathan Granoff

Daniel Ladinsky's Rendition of Hafiz - From Quran to Poetry and Back (to Quran)

In Quest of the Truth that will set us free | Sohbet with Sheikha Maryam Kabeer Faye

Quest in the Province of Ecstatic Exchange | Sohbet with Daniel Abdal-Hayy Moore

* Michael Green Arts



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Technology of the Heart: The Illuminated Hafiz: Love Poems for the Journey to Light - Book Review
The Illuminated Hafiz: Love Poems for the Journey to Light - Book Review
Vivid translations by Coleman Barks, Robert Bly, Omid Safi, Meher Baba, and others combine with Michael and Saliha Green's stunning illustrations to bring the immortal poetry of the great Persian master Hafiz to life
Technology of the Heart
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