A celebration of East-West dialogue through poetry and music

A celebration of East-West dialogue through poetry and music
Gingko has unveiled an ambitious poetry project, celebrating the 200th anniversary of Goethe's West-Eastern Divan, which was in turn inspired by the Persian poet Hafez.
3 min read
21 June, 2018
Tafahum performed a new composition for the A New Divan event [Gingko]
A new musical composition was unveiled by contemporary fusion group Tafahum on Wednesday, at London's historic Wilton's Music Hall, to mark the launch of A New Divan, a Gingko project aimed at celebrating the 200th anniversary of Johann Wolfgang von Goethe's West-Eastern Divan.

The London-based ensemble performed for the first time to an audience Letter to Goethe, a song inspired by a poem of the same name by Syria's Adonis for A New Divan.

The project brings together some of the world's leading poets - 12 from the "East" and 12 from the "West" - for a lyrical dialogue with the "Other".

The names of the poets taking part in the project were unveiled at the event by the editor of the programme Bill Swainson.

"The 22 English-language poets who will render the work of the 24 original poets writing in twelve different languages demonstrate the scope and quality of this hugely ambitious project," said Swainson.

"Last year, I was overwhelmed by the quality of each original poem as it arrived. This year, as the English-language versions have begun to arrive, I am thrilled by the immediacy of the translations and how the 22 poets are fashioning new poems from the work of poets they are often engaging with for the first time."

A New Divan continues the exchange began by Goethe with Persian poet Hafez - who was born several centuries before the German poet - and led to the creation of the West-Eastern Divan in 1819.

This work has inspired countless artists through the ages and helped break down preconceptions and prejudices about the Orient - and particularly, the Islamic world.

This dialogue between "East" and "West" continues with the 24 poets contributing to a multi-lingual anthology - due to be published next year - inspired by titles of Goethe's original work, including "The Poet", "Love", "The Tyrant" and "The Cup-Bearer".

These draw on the poetic traditions of the participants involved in the project to celebrate "the Other".

The result should be an anthology drawing from the heritages of both, and "a life-enhancing dialogue in the spirit of Goethe's original", Gingko said.

Swainson is editor of the project [Gingko]
"When A New Divan is published in 2019, I hope readers will be equally thrilled by the confidence and freshness of these voices and the worlds they evoke," Swainson added.
Next summer, the Hay and Shubbak festivals will host participating poets, followed by a festival of poetry and music at the Barenboim-Said Akademie next autumn.

Wednesday's concert - along with Tafahum's new composition - were made possible with support from Amal - A Said Foundation Project, Gingko said.

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