About the Book
Persian poetry, a literary heritage as rich as any in the world, found a brilliantly versatile voice when Dick Davis began his career as a translator several decades ago. Yet his English-language renderings–ranging from epics such as The Shahnameh and Vis & Ramin to the concentrated wisdom of Rumi and Hafez–are just one measure of his gifts with words. Davis is also an acclaimed poet, with a voice and sensibility very much his own.
At Home, and Far from Home, his ninth book of poetry, focuses on Iran and how it stirs him. Some of the poems draw on his scholar’s knowledge of Persian history and culture to reach into long-ago lives and minds: poets, artists, adventurers. In others, he weaves a gossamer net to catch subtleties of love, grief, or spiritual yearning. In still others, he looks at himself as a traveler, translator, and, for many years, an Englishman in a country often suspicious of the West. Sometimes the tone is witty, sometimes tender, but keen imagination and sharp intelligence are always in play as he explores the pull and aura of Iran.
It is a remarkable collection–proof that, as Davis writes of another poet,
- The insubstantial filigree
- Of singing words or wordless song
- Can bring us back where we belong.
Praise for Dick Davis’s Work
“A British poet married to an Iranian, Dick Davis teaches Persian literature in the United States. The cultural diversity of his life is reflected in the variety of his poems–in their skillfully handled formal range, in the scope of their subject-matter and in their commitment to an ideal of civilized life shared by many cultures. Belonging is a profound and beautiful collection, which stimulates, dazzles, surprises and delights.”
–The Economist, which chose Belonging as a “Book of the Year” for 2002.
“[Dick Davis’s translation] possesses the simplicity and elevation appropriate to an epic but never sounds grandiose; its sentences are clear, serene and musical. At various heightened moments—usually of anguish or passion—Davis will shift into aria-like verse, and the results remind us that the scholar and translator is also a noted poet.…Thanks to Davis’s magnificent translation, Ferdowsi and the Shahnameh live again in English.”
—Michael Dirda in The Washington Post Bookworld, which selected Shahnameh: The Persian Book of Kings as “One of the Ten Best Books of 2006.”
“One of the most extraordinary and fascinating love narratives produced anywhere in the medieval world, Islamic or Christian….Excellent introduction makes a convincing case for Vis and Ramin being the source for Tristan and Isolde…New translation by the poet Dick Davis, widely regarded as our finest translator of Persian poetry, in heroic couplets…This wonderful work should win Gorgani the Western audience he richly deserves.”
–Times Literary Supplement, London
A Sasanian Palace
- The great hall at Firuzabad
- Lies open to the weather –
- I saw two adolescents there
- Playing chess together.
- There was no splendour to distract them;
- Only a cavernous shade
- Cast by the drab and crumbling vault
- Where silently they played.
- So much of Persian verse laments
- The transience of things
- And triteness was mere truth as they
- Pursued each others’ kings
- Where kings had given orders for
- Armies to march on Rome,
- And where I watched their game awhile
- At home, and far from home.
About the Author
Dick Davis brings a unique array of gifts to the challenges of translating Hafez and his contemporaries. In his own right, he is a poet of great technical accomplishment and emotional depth. He is also the foremost English-speaking scholar of medieval Persian poetry now working in the West. Numerous honors testify to his talents. In the U.K., he received the Royal Society of Literature’s Heinemann Award for his second book of poems, Seeing the World, in 1981; his Selected Poems was chosen by both the Sunday Times and the Daily Telegraph as a Book of the Year in 1989; and his collection Belonging was selected as the Poetry Book of the Year by The Economist in 2003. In the U.S., A Kind of Love—the American edition of his Selected Poems—received the Ingram Merrill prize for “excellence in poetry” in 1993. He has received awards for his scholarship from the Arts Council of Great Britain, The British Institute of Persian Studies, and the Guggenheim Foundation, and he is the recipient of grants for his translations from the National Endowment for the Humanities and the National Endowment for the Arts. Twice, in 2000 and 2001, he received the Translation Award of the International Society for Iranian Studies, and in 2001 he received an Encyclopedia Iranica award for “services to Persian poetry.” His translation of Ferdowsi’s Shahnameh: the Persian Book of Kings was chosen as one of the “ten best books of 2006” by the Washington Post.
Davis read English at Cambridge, lived in Iran for eight years (he met and married his Iranian wife Afkham Darbandi there), then completed a PhD in Medieval Persian Literature at the University of Manchester. He has resided for extended periods in both Greece and Italy (his translations include works from Italian), and has taught at both the University of California and at Ohio State University, where he was for nine years Professor of Persian and Chair of the Department of Near Eastern Languages, retiring from that position in 2012. In all, he has published more than twenty books and is a Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature.
Among the qualities that distinguish his poetry and scholarship are exacting technical expertise and wide cultural sympathy—an ability to enter into distant cultural milieus both intellectually and emotionally. In choosing his volume of poems Belonging as a “Book of the Year” for 2006, The Economist praised it as “a profound and beautiful collection” that gave evidence of “a commitment to an ideal of civilized life shared by many cultures.” the Times Literary Supplement has called him “our finest translator of Persian poetry.” In 2009 Mage published a book of Dick Davis’s own poems about Iran: At Home and Far From Home: Poems on Iran and Persian Culture. His book about the Shahnameh, Epic and Sedition was published by Mage in paperback in 2006. His books of translations are: Borrowed Ware: Medieval Persian Epigrams (1998), The Shahnameh (2004); The Legend of Seyavash (2004); Rostam: Tales of Love and War from Persia’s Book of Kings (2007); Vis and Ramin (2008); Faces of Love: Hafez and the Poets of Shiraz (2012).