The Subject Tonight Is Love: 60 Wild and Sweet Poems of Hafiz – Book Review

Translated by Daniel Ladinsky (Penguin Books)

Hafiz, the great Sufi Mystic Poet comes to life through the magnificent, vibrant renderings of his songs by Daniel Ladinsky. Most people have heard of the genius of Rumi and yet Hafiz was not really known in the West till Daniel Ladinsky began publishing translations of his poetry.

Ladinsky heard of Hafiz through his spiritual Master, Mehar Baba. After being exposed to Hafiz’s poetry, he felt a strong vocation to begin translating it. In an interview, Ladinsky describes being taken over by Hafiz, literally becoming a channel for Hafiz to speak through. This may be why his translations are so incredibly alive. You may feel that Hafiz is sitting in front of you singing to you as you read these mesmerizing poems.

These poems are timeless, as relevant today as they were when Hafiz was alive in Persia. He was born either in 1315 or 1317. According to a contemporary, Hafiz died in 1390. 

Daniel Ladinsky says:

“All the poems in this book are based on the remarkable translation of the Divan of Hafiz by H. Wilberforce Clarke, originally published in 1891.The number of poems said to have been written by Hafiz varies. According to Clarke there are 693. I have expounded on these original writings, creating several thousand different renderings since I began my study of the Divan and Hafiz in the fall of 1992.” ––“I have often written many different interpretations of the same poem in an attempt to reveal the vast, seemingly infinite grandeur of the landscape of Hafiz’s work and spirit.”

Hafiz, when asked “What is a poet?” answered: “A poet is someone who can pour light into a cup, then raise it to nourish your beautiful parched holy mouth.”

Through his poetry, Hafiz leads us ever closer to the infinite divinity which is alive in our hearts. Like persons coming in from the cold, we huddle next to his warm fire of wisdom and discover life as love.

One of the poems from the book:

“In many parts of this world water is
Scarce and precious.
People sometimes have to walk 
A great distance
Then carry heavy jugs upon their
Heads.
Because of our wisdom, we will travel
Far for love.
All movement
Is a sign of Thirst.
Most speaking really says 
“I am hungry to know you.”
Every desire of your body is holy;
Every desire of your body is
Holy.
Dear one,
Why wait until you are dying
To discover that divine
Truth?”

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