Daniel Ladinsky is a household name in the world of spirituality, eastern religion and poetry. He has made a career, as much as poets can make careers, of interpreting or rendering the poems of the renowned Sufi poets such as Rumi and in this case, Hafiz, of whom no less a sage than Geothe said, "Hafiz has no peer."
The "hope and joy" of this collection do not reference the kinds of inspirational messages found on modern greeting cards, but to the joy of being utterly consumed in the flames of divine love, and the hope of loss of self in the fine-spun hair of the divine beloved. Sufis deal with nothing if not with metaphor. Thus they spoke of wine, women and song, made popular by Fitzgerald's skewed translations of the poetry of Omar Khayyam. But these earthly pleasures were meant to symbolize the unspeakable bliss of godhood and the longing for the final merging of the separate woul into the divine oversoul.
The alluring fragrance of ecstacy sensed in Ladinsky's version of Hafiz is underpinned, in this slim Penguin edition, by an educated essay from Hank Mindlin, one of the consulting editors, who examines 14th Century poet Hafiz's humble life and his rich style of versifying. The after-text will serve as a guide to those who need words for every feeling, but for those who are prepared to feel every word, skip the explanations and dive into the poems themselves, with Ladinsky's help.
As the poet - call him Hafiz, call him Ladinsky, call him poet, call him translator - so simply states,
I rarely let the word "No" escape
From my mouth
Because it is so plain to my soul
That God has shouted, "Yes! Yes! Yes!"
To every luminous movement in existence.
We should make all spiritual talk
It is this ability to convey what Hafiz MEANS, to convey the nub of the Sufi mystic message served up in free verse, that makes Ladinsky a poet with no peer. I will say this, if other critics are still unprepared to go so far.
God is trying to sell you something,
but you don't want to buy.
That is what your suffering is:
Your fantastic haggling,
Your manic screaming over the price!
Ladinsky has written other charming collections of verse - The Gift and The Subject Tonight Is Love - worth having. That his work is now being Penguinized is tribute enough to his talent.