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Treasures of Words

A Year With Hafiz
Reading by author Daniel Ladinsky
Old Books on Front Street • 249 S. Front St.
12/17, 7:30 p.m. • FREE

Known internationally for his renderings of notably one of the best Persian Sufi lyrical poets of the 14th century, Hafiz, Daniel Ladinsky now brings his interpretations of Hafiz’s celebrated works to our port city. As a native to Saint Louis, Missouri, born in 1948, Ladinsky lived for six years in western India. While there, he worked in a rural clinic, free to the poor, and lived with the family of Meher Baba, another well-known spiritual leader. On December 17th at Old Books on Front St., from 7:30 p.m. to 9 p.m., he will be in town to offer his unique and insightful perspective of Hafiz’s wisdom in his latest book, “A Year With Hafiz: Daily Contemplations.”

Called by Google Books, “A year’s worth of ruminations from one of the world’s most revered literary and spiritual teachers,” the poems of Hafiz, as understood and presented by Ladinsky, can be thought of as a daily guide which provides compelling wisdom. It’s warm in divination during a time in society where the spirit of self and that above seems to be dwindling. Offered in 365 moving poems—including a segment based on the conversions of Hafiz by Ralph Waldo Emerson—Ladinsky effectively brings Hafiz’s work to the English setting, all while maintaining the gripping tone of one of Islam’s most celebrated spiritual voices. “A Year With Hafiz: Daily Contemplations,” in its simplest description, is a body of work often humorous, yet insightful and emotional. Its reflection aims to guide and help everyone everywhere grow.

“At the very least Hafiz can be grand entertainment,” Ladinsky shared with encore last week. “There is great humor and charm in my books. It is a rare person who will not laugh out loud.”

A best-selling author of five books with publishing giant Penguin, Ladinsky will speak about that which “the soul longs to hear” during his reading. He will also have on hand his 2002 anthology titled, “Love Poems From God,” which includes chapters on 12 of the greatest poet-saints (East and West) in recorded history.

“Hafiz brings a light to the eyes one can share with another in darkness,” Ladinsky continued. “He is really like a blessed rain to any parched earth (life). A line of his I excavated that has now become famous goes: ‘I am a hole in a flute that the Christ’s breath/moves though—listen to this music.’ To which I say: Knock my socks off, dear Lord, take my breath away, free me from myself. That is art’s duty, a primal reason for the splendor in nature and our innate, magnetic attraction to it. We need to hear God speak—and I feel great poetry is about as close as we can get, via words.”

Also joining Ladinsky for the reading, as well as autographs afterward, is local poet Luleen Anderson. Reading from her fourth book, “The Knack of a Happy Life: 9 Lessons Along the Journey,” Anderson’s contribution to the night will aid in completing its overall theme: How to live one’s most complete life in the best way possible. Stemming from a lifetime of her own experiences of patience, science, studying and exploring, Anderson admits the catalyst for her book stems from education. Her readings with Ladinsky will coincide with how his teachings have affected her perspective.

“I hope many take away the awareness that happiness is a choice we make,” Anderson stated. A clinical psychologist in private practice for almost 45 years, with roots in Boston, Massachusetts, Anderson was a monthly columnist for “Wilma”women’s magazine when she relocated to Wilmington.

“The tie-in from my work and his is my use of his renderings of Hafiz; they open each chapter,” she noted. “I call them lessons. We can be happy in the face of suffering, loss and disappointment if we understand what suffering has to teach us. We have choices we make every day. Life is a prospect, a lifelong path, to know ourselves and to grow.”

Known as, “the Tongue of the Invisible, or … the one sanctioned to speak for the Sun,” both Anderson and Ladinsky believe the importance of Hafiz’s work holds dynamic secrets that were once intensely articulated within the world’s holy books. More than just a path to be taken spiritually, many of Hafiz’s confidences have unfortunately either been lost or hidden by prejudiced translations. That is, to say, until Ladinsky’s transcriptions. The importance of attending the reading Saturday night is to continue the process of sharing these remarkable teachings—to bring to light that which otherwise would be compressed and forgotten in the sands of time.

“For centuries, the poems of Hafiz have been used for teaching in multifarious ways, and they have very often been put into songs and performed in plays, and commonly consulted as something of a living oracle,” Ladinsky explained. “I hold dear many of his poems, I feel they are treasures, and I am very taken by what I believe are facts about his life. To my mind, Hafiz shares some of the wild, and exquisite barroom chat and lingo he had with angels and God; thus, some of his poems are of remarkable value if studied and fully understood.”

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