Persian Poet Hafiz’s Advice for Writing Across Gender

For the last month I have been writing to publishers and authors for permissions to use their work in my forthcoming novel Night Letter (Nortia Press, November 2012). This can normally involve a fee. I liked how the poet and translator Daniel Ladinsky requested that I purchase two copies of his book A Year With Hafiz for “the fee.” I did so just yesterday at my independent bookstore, Aunties. I enjoy Ladinsky’s interpretations and the poetic license he takes with Hafiz’s work. I think the more spins on the great Persian poets’ work, the better for contemporary readers to get a sense of who these ancient poets might have been.

In keeping with the tradition of opening Hafiz’s work to any page, and finding wisdom in the poem one finds, I did this last night and found wisdom for writers who like to write “out of gender” or about races and cultures other than their own. This topic has been hotly debated over the years. I thought you might like to hear how Hafiz weighs in, through Daniel Ladinsky’s filter, but I would be breaching the copy right by reproducing the whole poem here. The poem, in essence, is about a young woman who approaches Hafiz and asks him how it feels to be a man, and he replies that the better question would have been, “How does it feel to be a heart?”

Please see the whole poem “How Does It Feel To Be A Heart?” in Daniel Ladinsky’s latest collection, on page 226.