“Know yourself and in that instant
Know the Other and see therefore
Orient and Occident
Cannot be parted for evermore”

Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, West-Eastern Divan


Eastern Poets                                    English-Language Poets

Abbas Baydoun (Lebanon)               Bill Manhire

Adonis (Syria)                                   Khaled Mattawa

Fadhil Al-Azzawi (Iraq)                     Jorie Graham

Amjad Nasser (Jordan)                      Fady Joudah

Fatemeh Shams (Iran)                        Dick Davis

Gonca Özmen (Turkey)                     Jo Shapcott

Hafez Mousavi (Iran)                         Daisy Fried

Iman Mersal (Egypt)                          Elaine Feinstein

Mohammed Bennis (Morocco)          Sinead Morrissey

Mourid Barghouti (Palestine)            George Szirtes

Nujoom Al-Ghanem (UAE)               Doireann Ní Ghríofa

Reza Mohammedi (Afghanistan)         Nick Laird


Western Poets                                   English-Language Poets

Antonella Anedda (Italy)                   Jamie McKendrick

Homero Aridjis (Mexico)                  Kathleen Jamie

Angélica Freitas (Brazil)                   Tara Bergin

Durs Grünbein (Germany)                Matthew Sweeney

Clara Janés (Spain)                             Lavinia Greenlaw

Jaan Kaplinski (Estonia)                      Sasha Dugdale

Khaled Mattawa (USA)                       –

Gilles Ortlieb (France)                       Sean O’Brien

Don Paterson (UK)                              –

Raoul Schrott (Austria)                      Paul Farley

Aleš Šteger (Slovenia)                        Brian Henry

Jan Wagner (Germany)                      Robin Robertson

A New Divan
A Lyrical Dialogue between East and West

Foreword by Daniel Barenboim
Edited by Barbara Haus Schwepcke and Bill Swainson

Published to celebrate the 200th anniversary of Goethe’s West-Eastern Divan (1819), the New Divan will bring together twenty-four leading poets – twelve from the ‘East’ and twelve from the ‘West’ – in a poetic dialogue inspired by the culture of the Other.

Drawing on themes suggested by the twelve books of Goethe’s original publication, including, The Poet, The Cup Bearer, The Tyrant, Love, Anger, and Faith, and using the distinctive poetic forms of the cultures of the poets taking part, A New Divan will be a life-enhancing conversation in poetry.

22 English-language poets mainly from Britain, but also from Ireland, the USA and New Zealand, have been commissioned to create English-language version of the original poems, either by direct translation or by working with a literal translation (with notes where appropriate). Each poem will appear in English poetic translation facing the original language of composition.

Three pairs of essays will enhance and compliment the poems, just like in Goethe’s original. They include Rajmohan Gandhi on ‘Mohammad Iqbal and the response to Goethe’s Divan from the East’ and Robyn Creswell on ‘The importance for the west of translating poetry from the East today’.

A New Divan is a multi-disciplinary project run by the Gingko Library in conjunction with the Barenboim-Said Akademie in Berlin, the main literary stages of which will be the announcement of the twenty-four original poets in summer 2017, the announcement of the English-language poets in summer 2018, and the publication of the book itself in summer 2019.

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“A highly auspicious and commendable
initiative … I hope that this initiative
will, albeit slowly, facilitate and
promote the process of peace and
mutual understanding among peoples
around the globe.”

Mahmoud Dowlatabadi

West-Eastern Divan
Goethe’s Lyrical Dialogue with Hafez

Translated by Eric Ormsby
Edited by Bill Swainson

‘To everything there is a season!’ These words from the Book of Ecclesiastes open the scholarly essays that form part of Johann Wolfgang von Goethe’s West-Eastern Divan. By enteritng into a lyrical yet scholarly dialogue with the Other, the book was a very personal attempt to broaden the horizons of readers both ignorant and fearful of the Islamic world. 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. Today we face another era in which the West feels threatened, by Islam, by the ‘Other’, by the unknown, which, whilst understanding very little about what this means, it all to often equates with religious fundamentalism. ‘To everything there is a season!’, Goethe said, and the season now seems right to attempt a West-Eastern Divan for our times.

By publishing a bilingual German-English edition, featuring a new annotated translation by the poet, scholar and man of letters, Eric Ormsby, alongside Goethe’s original poems as well as his remarkable scholarship on the Islamic world, Gingko hopes not only to make a significant contribution to the study of this quintessential German poet but also broaden the horizons of Western readers fearful of the Other.

Eric Ormsby was a longtime resident of Montreal where he was the Director of University Libraries and subsequently a professor of Islamic thought at McGill. He now loves in London where he is Professor and Chief Librarian at the Institute of Ismaili Studies. As a published poet, he is therefore uniquely qualified to translate this important work by Goethe.

Year of Publication: 2019
ISBN: 978-1-909942-24-0

12 books of poetry, 50,000 words of scholarship, dual English-German edition.