Daniel Ladinsky (The Gift, The Subject Tonight Is Love, and Love Poems from God: Twelve Sacred Voices from the East and West) has an audacious talent with a big heart, a keen sense of humor, and a keen way of looking at things. This collection of 59 poems by Hafiz (1320-1389) are called "renderings" rather than translations. In our view, Ladinsky is the only one who has succeeded in bringing this popular Persian poet to life in the West. The ghazals are based on translations by H. Wilberforce Clarke, and they are filled with mystical insights into the graceful, luminous, and awesome presence of the Friend, the Tavern Keeper (the one who pours Love's Wine), and the Beautiful One. Ladinsky notes that Hafiz is like a playwright who acts all the parts: the lover, the disciple, the Master, the Guide, the voice of God, and sometimes even the reader.
The poems are divided into seven sections that open with brief but illuminating observations by Ladinsky on various aspects of "the Journey of Love" undertaken by all those attracted to the Beloved. Hafiz believes that we can come to God "dressed for dancing." It is interesting to see how many times this image appears in these poems. Another motif is that the Beautiful One uses everything in the world to draw us closer. In "For a While" we read:
We have all come to the right place.
We all sit in God's classroom.
The only thing left for us to do, my dear,
Is to stop
Throwing spitballs for a while.
So many playful images in this collection connect with us. Hafiz loves pulling out the chair under minds. He marvels at the wonders elicited by the Beloved when He walked through the city, "so Beautiful and Naked." He relishes the unity between human beings despite our external differences. He is perplexed why we don't all walk around with a perpetual smile on our faces given all the miracles in sight. In "My Brilliant Image," he presents in a few lines the truth that so many of us still do not realize, much to our diminishment:
I wish I could show you,
When you are lonely or in darkness,
The Astonishing Light
Of your own Being!
After spending some time with this exquisite collection of poems by Hafiz, you will feel loved by the Friend who believes in us even more than we believe in ourselves.