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21 of 21 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Beautiful Book
Like every book from Mage Publishers, Faces of Love: Hafez and the Poets of Shiraz (2012), by Dick Davis, is a beautiful book, both inside and out. Davis situates Hafez within the rich culture of medieval Shiraz, where both poetry and wine cultivation flourished. Apart from a lovely, informative introduction by Davis, the book is mostly devoted to Davis's translations of...
Published 19 months ago by NL

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1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Had real high hopes for this book, unfortunately it didn't even come close...
I had real high hopes for this book. As someone that has read most of the original work in farsi, I was really looking forward to reading the english version and sharing it with friends. Unfortunately the translation really misses the mark. The highlight of the book is the introduction to persian poetry which is very well written and covers it pretty well. Sadly the...
Published 2 months ago by soaringMoe


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21 of 21 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Beautiful Book, December 4, 2012
Like every book from Mage Publishers, Faces of Love: Hafez and the Poets of Shiraz (2012), by Dick Davis, is a beautiful book, both inside and out. Davis situates Hafez within the rich culture of medieval Shiraz, where both poetry and wine cultivation flourished. Apart from a lovely, informative introduction by Davis, the book is mostly devoted to Davis's translations of selected poetry from three of the best medieval poets of Shiraz: Hafez of course, Princess Jahan Malek Khatun, and Obayd-E Zakani. Davis's translations are formal in the sense that they have a conscious meter, and they rhyme. At the same time, they remain conversational, accessible, and often melodious. (The book closes with thorough explanatory notes for many of the translations.)

Davis's translations of Hafez are compelling and lyrical; however, the real discovery of this book is the section on the lesser-known Jahan Malek Khatun. Hafez is one of the greatest poets who ever lived. But Khatun is a wonderful poet in her own right. Davis spends some time on both her uses of and moves away from traditional forms. Deceptively simple at times, her poems have a modern, daring quality that readers of any century would find powerful. Davis mentions her androgynous address in several poems: true enough, in poem after poem of intense longing, Khatun both struggles with and seems to transcend gender.

The book is a delightful offering of gorgeous, timeless, and often controversial poetry. Yet, its genius is in the triptych structure of three poets from the same fascinating and complicated town. Furthermore, in beginning with Hafez, a mystic poet, and ending with Zakani, Davis allows the reader to contemplate the same themes of wine, desire, and longing from the perspective of the divine-reaching and touching (Hafez), the at times divine-longing (Khatun), and the unapologetically profane (Zakani).

In the introduction, Davis muses roundly on the problem of classifying Hafez as either divine or crassly secular, since his poems seem to touch both realms. Perhaps unwittingly, perhaps intentionally, the structure of Davis's book is an answer to this problem. The mystical artist necessarily embraces the high and the low, the blasphemous and the devout, the sacred and the profane all at the same time.

In this intelligently compiled, captivating book of poetry, Davis not only gives us a luscious glimpse of Shiraz as a poet's city, but his book also allows us to peacefully contemplate the parallel truths of pleasure and transcendent devotion, of material wine and divine wine, of buffoonish drunkenness and divine intoxication, of sexual desire and desire for God.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Wonderful Medieval Persian Poetry in Contemporary English Verse, February 21, 2014
I was moved to write this review because I read Wendy Mcmullen's Amazon customer review of the 20th of February 2014 in which she says she likes Ladinsky and Bly's translations better. We are all entitled to our opinions, but neither Ladinsky nor Bly speak any Persian (Davis, while an English poet in his own right, spent 8 years in Iran and is fluent in Persian and a respected scholar of Persian literature). What is unfortunate about Ms. Mcmullen's advice to readers is that Ladinsky's and Bly's "poems" have almost nothing whatsoever to do with the actual poems of Hafez (Davis's translations, on the other hand, while in contemporary English verse, are so close to the actual Persian that they could be used as cribs). Liking the poems of Hafez that don't rhyme, as Ms. Mcmullen does, is like saying you like dances when the dancers don't dance. How can Ms. Mcmullen be "madly in love with Hafez" when she has clearly never read anything by him. A University Librarian!!! Jesus wept.
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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A work not only of great beauty, but also of considerable social and political interest, February 22, 2013
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Faces of Love is wonderful. It's actually so wonderful that I've had to abandon all hope of recapping of its virtues in a comprehensive way. (The account threatened to be book-length.) Instead, here is what I hope will be a more useful, if only partial, description of a few highlights:

-- First and maybe most importantly, the collection has the rare quality of being as accessible as it is intelligent. Both the poems and the commentary that frame them offer plenty of depth and detail to satisfy the frequent reader of poetry, but it also strikes me that translator Dick Davis's wry prose and contemporary analogies could provide a very entertaining inroad someone less acquainted with this art form. (Do you like Bob Dylan? This could be the book for you!) Very easy to imagine someone who was otherwise not much of a poetry reader getting curious about what else is out there, after reading Davis's collection.

-- Second, the poems are remarkable. I'm not a reader of Persian, sadly, so I can't speak to the originals, but these translations make an impressive body of work on their own. There's a dexterity with rhyme and emotion I wish we'd see a lot more of in contemporary Anglophone poetry (Davis knocked me out resolving an otherwise-unrhymed poem on despair and solace with a final rhymed couplet, closing the poem with a comfort to the reader's ear that matches and magnifies the comfort the poem's themes offer the reader's heart). There's intellectual sophistication that gives lie to postmodernity's purported monopoly on the instability of meaning (a Hafez aside about "wine that's real and not a metaphor" is but the most explicit indication that one didn't need to wait for Barthes to grasp the pleasures and possibilities in the space between sign and referent. Is all the rest of the wine only metaphorical?!) And then there's the uproariously, graphically funny (I badly wish I thought I could get away with quoting the Obayd for you here, but my strong suspicion is that it would be censored. But perhaps that knowledge will be enough to tempt!) The work is terrific, across the board; it's a bit mind-bending to imagine that one translator could work so successfully in so many different styles.

-- Third, the physical book is as lovely as the poems it contains: smooth, cream-colored paper with plenty of blank leaves at the end for note-making; vibrant blue cover art, consonant with the vitality of the book's contents; a matching blue satin ribbon to mark your page or perhaps one you'd like to share. And I think you might like to share it; it's not just a book that would make a nice gift, but the kind of book that reminds why books make such nice gifts.

-- Finally, Faces of Love offers the Anglophone reader a rare view on three very different ways of making and writing a life in medieval Iran. The choice to group these three poets as well as Davis's narration of the world they inhabited brings their culture to life in an unusually vivid fashion. The documentation of their diversity (which often included fairly heterodox attitudes toward religion) may especially interest students of Iranian and international politics. In a passage explaining why alcohol would be so prominent in the lives of these poets despite its prohibition in Islam, Davis writes, amusingly, that in flouting the alcohol proscription, "Local Persian dynasties...were saying, in effect, `This is a part of our culture; get over it.' " Those inclined to speculate may wonder whether Davis, an eight-year resident of Iran, isn't making a similar statement with this publication, if in more circumspect fashion! Regardless of intention though, the book documents a fascinating, multidimensional culture with a good deal more evidence and interest than what, for instance, the U.S. readers usually encounter in the mainstream media accounts of Iran. As such the book becomes not only a work of great beauty but also one of considerable social and political interest.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Astounding, December 29, 2013
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Astounding. Dick Davis may have succeeded in producing a translation for the ages -- each poet's voice distinct, remarkable from its neighbor, sufficient, consistent unto itself.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Dick Davis is the greatest translator of Persian literature since Edward Fitzgerald, March 16, 2014
Hafez is a particularly difficult poet to translate due to his uses of double (or multiple) entendres, his precise meters & rhymes, and his wild metaphors. The greatest beauties of Hafez are language specific.

Dick Davis here has captured so much of the beauty of this poetry in English- has even aced many of them. I thought it would be impossible. No matter if he has captured the beauty of the original or not, this collection works because the results are always beautiful English poems in their own right.

Yet, some difficulties can not be overcome. One of these is that in the original all pronouns are unisex. Some poems are clearly about male lovers without saying so explicitly. In English, Davis has had to choose and assign a gender to the beloved, as in "Last night she brought me wine and sat beside my pillow". In the original this one is thought to be about a male.

Overall, gorgeous!
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Met my expectations, and more., February 6, 2014
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This review is from: Faces of Love: Hafez and the Poets of Shiraz (Penguin Classics Deluxe Editio) (Paperback)
Enjoying the book. I am sure I will enjoy it for a long time, since books of poetry are meant to be read and re-read over time ! As a Texan born "Anglo-American" , it has always seemed odd to friends, that I have been strangely drawn to the mystical poetry of Iran, as well as traditional Persian music. Put them both together, and I am floating in Heaven...
I am glad I bought this book, because the author includes a helpful footnote section that explains the references relating to traditional Persian mythology and characters that are mentioned in the poems, giving clear explanations of the contexts in which these poems were written. "It all makes sense now".
I also enjoyed being introduced to two more Shirazi poets that lived and wrote around the time of Hafez. A female poet, a Persian princess of that time, Jahan Malek Khatun, and a free speaking and sometimes "bawdy" Obayd-e Zakani. Up until this book, I had mainly read Hafez, Saadi, and Rumi. This collection has now encouraged me to "broaden my horizons".
Thank you, Dick Davis.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Hafez, February 5, 2014
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This review is from: Faces of Love: Hafez and the Poets of Shiraz (Penguin Classics Deluxe Editio) (Paperback)
I am familiar with this outstanding poet and I loved the book. It is obvious that to translate those poets is a huge task, particularly if you want to be faithful to the original texts. However, I expected to have some footnotes explaining words that refer to places or individuals.
overall a fantastic work.
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5.0 out of 5 stars unsurpassed poetry, June 2, 2014
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This review is from: Faces of Love: Hafez and the Poets of Shiraz (Penguin Classics Deluxe Editio) (Paperback)
first rate translation of one of the best sufi poets of the time
poems worth reading
anyone who enjoys the poetry associated with sufism
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5.0 out of 5 stars Fantastic, May 31, 2014
This review is from: Faces of Love: Hafez and the Poets of Shiraz (Penguin Classics Deluxe Editio) (Paperback)
Oh! I loved this book! The poems in it were translated very well. I especially liked Skinning Your Knees On God. I keep reciting it. I highly recommend this book to people who like translated Persian poetry or people looking to be enlightened.
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5.0 out of 5 stars The translations of all three poets are superb, and they open up a new world even for those who know Persian well, April 25, 2014
I don't think soaringMoe (previous reviewer) could read Persian (by the way, that's what the language is called in English. Farsi is what it's called when you're speaking that language--you wouldn't say, "I've read most of the original work in français, would you?). If he could read Persian then he'd know how close to the mark Dick Davis's translations come. For the first time ever (and I am not exaggerating) Dick Davis has managed to turn Hafez's poems into delightfully readable English verse. Of course if you can read Persian, and if you have spent time studying medieval Persian (because reading Hafez in Persian is not a walk in the park), then obviously the originals are wonderful. But, to quote Professor Hanaway, who reviewed the book for CHOICE, "The translations of all three poets are superb, and they open up a new world even for those who know Persian well."
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Faces of Love: Hafez and the Poets of Shiraz (Penguin Classics Deluxe Editio)
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