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
‘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