Haleh Liza Gafori on Rumi

Page from Dīvān-e Šams-e Tabrīzī

Crack open my shell. Steal the pearl.
I’ll still be laughing.
It’s the rookies who laugh only when they win.

—from Haleh Liza Gafori’s translations of Rumi

“A preacher before he was a poet, [Rumi] hungered to feel what he called for in sermons: liberation from the cramped shell of self [and] union with a shoreless Love,” writes celebrated translator Haleh Liza Gafori.

Once Rumi met the vagabond, mystic, and rebel Shams of Tabriz, he began to walk his talk and talk in rhyme, spouting poetry that has endured for eight centuries. His dazzling imagery opens us to heart-stopping glimpses of the divine while calling upon us to consider the way we live now—the way we manage the challenging act of being both matter and spirit in an often tumultuous world. He invites us to question and perhaps even break through, to cultivate compassion, to live a more expansive, soulful existence.

In this three-part seminar, Gafori, the first Iranian American female poet to translate Rumi’s ghazals into English, will discuss a selection of his poems, exploring recurring themes, such as divine love, the death of the ego, heartache, ecstasy, and liberation. Offering cultural context and backstories, she will unpack words and phrases that have no one-to-one equivalent in English, but are central to Rumi’s poetry and Sufi philosophy. She will also recite short excerpts of the original text offering participants glimpses of the astonishing rhythm, rhyme, and wordplay of the Persian text, revealing some of the challenges, pleasures, conundrums, and surprises that riddle the translation process.

Class meets from 2:30–3:45 p.m. EDT on Tuesday, August 6, 13 and 20.

Gafori will reference her translations of GOLD: Poems by Rumi (New York Review Books, 2022), which registrants are encouraged to buy.

This live, virtual course is structured to encourage participation. Registrants will receive Zoom links a week before each session, a day before each session, and the morning of each session. Class recordings will be made available within forty-eight hours of a session. All recordings and class material will remain available for thirty days after the final session.

Scholarship applications must be submitted by Friday, July 26 at 5 p.m. EDT.

For information on how to register, how to receive the member discount, how to apply for a scholarship, how to access recordings and course materials, and more, please visit our FAQ page.

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Sessions in this seminar
Session title
Haleh Liza Gafori on Rumi: Session 1
Aug 6th, 2024 2:30pm – 3:45pm EDT
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Session title
Haleh Liza Gafori on Rumi: Session 2
Aug 13th, 2024 2:30pm – 3:45pm EDT
Restricted Access
Session title
Haleh Liza Gafori on Rumi: Session 3
Aug 20th, 2024 2:30pm – 3:45pm EDT
Restricted Access
Haleh Liza Gafori
Photo credit: Manny Inoa

Haleh Liza Gafori

Haleh Liza Gafori, is an Iranian American translator, poet, performance artist, and composer born in New York City. Her book Gold, which features her translations of poems by the thirteenth-century sage and mystic, Rumi, was published by New York Review Books Classics/Penguin Random House in 2022. She has also been published in Harvard Review, The Brooklyn RailLiterary Hub, Hyperallergic, and The Marginalian.

Learn more about Haleh Liza Gafori
Seminar Resources

Registered attendees get access to live session links, recordings of past sessions, and all seminar materials.