Friday, May 17, 2019

'A New Divan - a lyrical dialogue between East and West' to be launched at British Library with an evening of poetry and music


British Library, 96 Euston Road, St Pancras, London NW1 2DB, 23 May, 7pm
‘The Poet and Suleika: a West-Eastern Dialogue in Poetry and Music’
 Nujoom Alghanem, Paul Farley and Don Paterson reading poetry from A New Divan 
Simon Wallfisch singing Hafiz and Goethe Lieder

Gingko will mark the occasion of the 200th anniversary of the first publication of Johann Wolfgang von Goethe’s West-Eastern Divan with two new books: A New Divan – A lyrical dialogue between East & West and a new annotated translation of the complete West-Eastern Divan, including Goethe’s original ‘Notes and Essays for a Better Understanding’. Both volumes will be launched at a series of public events, starting with an evening at the British Library on 23 May at 19:00 - 20:30.

This reimagining of Goethe’s seminal work gives us the opportunity to re-engage with his thoughts – a much needed exercise, given the state of the world today.’ – Daniel Barenboim (from his Foreword to A New Divan)

‘The West-Eastern Divan represents nothing less than a decisive reconfiguration of German, an indeed European, poetry.’ – Eric Ormsby (from his Introduction to West-Eastern Divan)

In 1814 Goethe read the poems of the great fourteenth-century Persian poet Hafiz in a newly published translation by Joseph von Hammer. The book was a revelation. He called Hafiz his twin and was immediately inspired to create a Divan of his own. Not long afterwards Goethe met Marianne von Willemer, with whom he rapidly fell in love. She became Suleika to his Hatem and the conversation begun with Hafiz blossomed also into a duet for two lovers, which became the Suleika Nameh (the ‘Book of Suleika’), the most beautiful part of Goethe’s West-Eastern Divan (published in 1819). At the centre of the Book of Suleika are at least five poems, which Goethe published as his own but were in fact composed by his young lover Marianne von Willemer; it is these poems that were set to music by Franz Schubert and Felix Mendelssohn.

In this anniversary year Gingko want to redress this appropriation and move the historical and the poetic Suleika firmly into the centre of our celebration of our West-Eastern dialogue in poetry and music. ‘The Poet and Suleika’ is the first of a series of events and will feature three prominent participants in A New Divan – A lyrical dialogue between East & West: Don Paterson is one of Scotland’s greatest contemporary poets, writers and musicians; the Emirati poet and filmmaker Nujoom Alghanem wrote a modern version of the love duet between Suleika and Hatem; while Paul Farley produced the English version of the Raoul Schrott’s poem ‘suleika spricht’. This lyrical dialogue between East and West will be matched by a musical one, with Hafiz poems, set to music by 20th century German composers Gottfried von Einem, Viktor Ullmann and Richard Strauss, and Goethe Lieder sung by Simon Wallfisch accompanied by Craig White.

‘The poem was his ode to friendship and symbolised the union between old and young, man and woman, human and the Divine, literature and scholarship, East and West – a union which in his mind was inseparable.’ – Barbara Schwepcke (about Goethe’s poem ‘Gingko Biloba’, Book of Suleika, West-Eastern Divan)

‘Poetry thrives and develops by cross-fertilisation.’ – Bill Swainson (from his Editor’s Note to A New Divan)
·  More information about both publications and the accompanying tour can be found at
·  For press enquiries or more information please contact Clare Roberts: / 0203 637 9730
·  To book tickets for the first event at the British Library on the evening of 23 May please go to

West-Eastern Divan
Translated and annotated by Eric Ormsby
Goethe’s West-Eastern Divan was a very personal attempt to broaden the horizons of European readers by entering into a lyrical yet scholarly dialogue with the Other. From the time of the Persian Wars, the Orient had been seen as alien, as a threat to the West; a threat that was central to the formation of Western identity. This new prose translation by the poet and scholar, Eric Ormsby, includes for the first time a complete translation of the poet’s remarkable prose commentary on the Islamic world (‘Notes and Essays For A Better Understanding . . .’). With this bilingual edition Gingko hopes not only to make a significant contribution to the study of this quintessential German poet, but also, at a time of renewed western unease about the Other, to open up the rich cultural world of Islam.
Publication date: September 2019 · ISBN: 978-1-909942-24-0

A New Divan
A Lyrical Dialogue between East and West
Edited by Barbara Schwepcke and Bill Swainson
A New Divan is an ambitious anthology bringing together new poems by twenty-four leading poets – twelve from the ‘East’ and twelve from the ‘West’ – in a truly international poetic dialogue inspired by the culture of the Other. The poets come from across the East (from Morocco to Turkey, Syria to Afghanistan) and from across the West (from Germany to the USA, Estonia to Brazil). The new poems respond to the titles of the twelve books
of Goethe’s original Divan, including ‘The Tyrant’, ‘Suleika’, ‘Love’, ‘Paradise’ and ‘Ill-Humour’, and draw on the distinctive poetic forms of the cultures of the poets taking part. Twenty-two English-language poets have been com- missioned to create English versions of the poems not originally written in English, either by direct translation or by working with a literal translation. Three pairs of essays in English enhance and complement the poems, mirroring Goethe’s original notes and commentary, which he called ‘Notes and Essays For A Better Understanding . . .’.
Publication date: June 2019 · ISBN: 978-1-909942-28-8

                                                            Forewords by
                                        Daniel Barenboim and Mariam C. Said

Adonis                                                     The Poet                   Khaled Mattawa       
Khaled Mattawa       
Abbas Beydoun                                         Hafiz                        Bill Manhire
Durs Grünbein                                                                          Matthew Sweeney
Iman Mersal                                             Love                         Elaine Feinstein
Homero Aridjis                                                                         Kathleen Jamie
Amjad Nasser                                           Ill-Humour               Fady Joudah
Don Paterson           
Reza Mohammadi                                     Reflections                 Nick Laird
Antonella Anedda                                                                     Jamie McKendrick
Fatemeh Shams                                         Proverbs                  Dick Davis
Gilles Ortlieb                                                                            Sean O’Brien
Mourid Barghouti                                      The Tyrant George Szirtes
Jaan Kaplinski                                                                          Sasha Dugdale
Nujoom al-Ghanem                                   Suleika                     Doireann Ní Ghríofa
Raoul Schrott                                                                            Paul Farley
Mohammed Bennis                                   The Cup-Bearer        Sinéad Morrissey
Aleš Šteger                                                                               Brian Henry
Gonca Özmen                                           Parables                  Jo Shapcott
Angélica Freitas                                                                        Tara Bergin
Hafez Mousavi                                          Faith                        Daisy Fried
Clara Janés                                                                               Lavinia Greenlaw
Fadhil Al-Azzawi                                      Paradise                  Jorie Graham
Jan Wagner                                                                               Robin Robertson
Sibylle Wentker                                                                        Rajmohan Gandhi
Robyn Creswell                                                                        Narguess Farzad
Stefan Weidner                                                                         Kadhim J. Hassan

Gingko promotes and facilitates dialogue between the Middle East and the Western world through conferences, events and publications. Its aim is to enable constructive, informed and open discussion, giving a voice to a new generation of thinkers and opinion formers. A New Divan extends this conversation into the realm of poetry.

Dr Barbara Schwepcke is the founder of Gingko as well as the chair of its board of trustees. After receiving her doctorate from the London School of Economics she worked as a publisher of Prospect magazine. In 2003 she founded Haus Publishing.

Bill Swainson is a freelance editor and literary consultant. Since 1976 he has worked for leading literary publishers, including John Calder Publishers, Allison & Busby, Harvill Press and Bloomsbury, where he was Senior Commissioning Editor for fifteen years. In 2015 he was awarded an OBE for services to literary translation.

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