A New Divan

A New Divan


A Lyrical Dialogue between East & West

edited by Barbara Schwepcke and Bill Swainson

Format: Royal Hardback
Published: June 2019
Pages: 187
ISBN: 9781909942288

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A unique publication celebrating original poetry and poetic translation

Published in honour of Johann Wolfgang von Goethe and the 200th anniversary of the first publication of his West-Eastern Divan (1819), A New Divan contains outstanding new poems by twenty-four leading poets, twelve from the East and twelve from the West, and presents a truly international poetic dialogue inspired by the culture of the Other and Goethe’s late, great work. Writing in Arabic, English, French, German, Persian, Portuguese, Russian, Spanish, Slovenian, and Turkish, each pair of poets has responded to one of the themes of the twelve books of Goethe’s Divan. Working either directly with the original poets or via a bridge translation, the twenty-two English-language poets have created poems that draw on the poetic forms and cultures of the poets taking part. Three pairs of essays enhance and complement the poems, mirroring Goethe’s original ‘Notes and Essays for a Better Understanding of the West-Eastern Divan’.

Bill Swainson is a freelance editor and literary consultant. In 2015 he was awarded an OBE for services to literary translation. Dr Barbara Schwepcke is the founder of Gingko and the chair of its board of trustees. In 2003 she founded Haus Publishing.

‘The multilingual delights of A New Divan, published 200 years after Goethe’s, are inspired by the inspiration Goethe took from Hafiz, and his passionate vision of common humanity across cultural difference. The editors, publishers expert in translated poetry and fiction, summoned more than 50 poets, translators and scholars, commissioned new poems in English, Arabic, Farsi, Turkish and Slovenian, and asked English-language poets to make versions of them. Twenty-four poets — 12 from the east, 12 from the west — respond to Goethe and Hafiz, and also to the east-west relations of today. Six brilliant essayists meditate on the process, nature and aims, past and present, of translation between east and west.’ – Ruth Padel, Financial Times

‘…The Gingko poets seem to use the Divan not as a bustling street market of imagery but as a lens to look at our times’. – Brian Morton, PN Review

‘…The volume enacts a meeting of West and East very much in Goethe’s spirit.’ – Ritchie Robertson, TLS

‘…How exhilarating and enjoyable it is to read a book that combines such strikingly different kinds of artistic excellence and such diverse perspectives with the underlying coherence that comes from the shared reference to Goethe’s original cycle.’ – Edmund Prestwich, Acumen

‘Goethe believed an East-West dialogue would continue long after him, and this was the challenge taken up by Schwepcke when she announced a new divan on September 15, 2015, the 200th anniversary of Goethe’s letter to Willemer. Schwepcke recruited Swainson, a renowned editor in literary translation who has worked with writers such as Amin Maalouf, Juan Gabriel, Delphine de Vigan and Matthew Sweeney […] They believed translated poems should both reflect the original work and stand on their own merit. A New Divan has the Arabic, Farsi, Turkish or Slovenian poem printed across the page from its English version. Poets were assigned themes that had been used by Goethe as titles for the 12 books in West-Eastern Divan, including The Poet, Love, Faith, Paradise, Proverbs and The Tyrant. “The challenge was to commission new poems from the best poets we could persuade to take part,” says Swainson. “They had either to be familiar with Goethe or to respond to his ideas. We wanted them to speak to the world we are in now.” – Gareth Smyth, The National

‘UK-based publisher Gingko has produced an admirable and elegant volume that is also an act of homage: A New Divan: A lyrical dialogue between East & West (£20) that is itself a celebration of artistic sensibility transcending geographical and ideological or religious boundaries. Edited by Barbara Schwepcke and Bill Swainson the volume contains poems by 24 authors, East and West, in nearly a dozen different languages, with English translation on the facing pages. The act of translation is itself at the heart of the project, as most of the poems in English are renderings by an English mother-tongue poet based on a more literal translation by a third party. To emphasize the importance of the nature and art of translation even more, there are three essays (among a few others) which follow the poems and which give added food for thought. The poems themselves are to be read and reread, some raising a smile, others a wince of pain, all inviting the reader to enter into the poet’s state of consciousness. Beautiful, certainly; troubling at times, particularly when one considers the traumas that the whole of the Middle East and North Africa has been going through in recent years. I think Goethe would have been intrigued, and I hope Hafez would have been proud — knowing that seven centuries after his birth, under the fiery reign of Timur/Tamerlane, his influence persists.’ – Jonathan Fryer

Forewords by

Daniel Barenboim and Mariam C. Said



Adonis                                                                                     Khaled Mattawa

Khaled Mattawa

Abbas Beydoun                                                                       Bill Manhire

Durs Grünbein                                                                         Matthew Sweeney

Iman Mersal                                                                            Elaine Feinstein

Homero Aridjis                                                                        Kathleen Jamie

Amjad Nasser                                                                          Fady Joudah

Don Paterson

Reza Mohammadi                                                                    Nick Laird

Antonella Anedda                                                                    Jamie McKendrick

Fatemeh Shams                                                                        Dick Davis

Gilles Ortlieb                                                                           Sean O’Brien

Mourid Barghouti                                                                    George Szirtes

Jaan Kaplinski                                                                         Sasha Dugdale

Nujoom al-Ghanem                                                                Doireann Ní Ghríofa

Raoul Schrott                                                                           Paul Farley

Mohammed Bennis                                                                 Sinéad Morrissey

Aleš Šteger                                                                               Brian Henry

Gonca Özmen                                                                          Jo Shapcott

Angélica Freitas                                                                       Tara Bergin

Hafez Mousavi                                                                        Daisy Fried

Clara Janés                                                                               Lavinia Greenlaw

Fadhil Al-Azzawi                                                                     Jorie Graham

Jan Wagner                                                                              Robin Robertson


Sibylle Wentker                                                                       Rajmohan Gandhi

Robyn Creswell                                                                       Narguess Farzad

Stefan Weidner                                                                        Kadhim J. Hassan

Click here to learn about the complete, annotated new translation of Goethe’s original West-Eastern Divan by Eric Ormsby, including Goethe’s ‘Notes and Essays’ & the unpublished poems.

A New Divan is supported using public funding by the National Lottery through Arts Council England

Additional information


Literature & Poetry


Edited by Barbara Schwepcke and Bill Swainson






Royal Hardback