To mark the 200th anniversary of Johann Wolfgang von Goethe’s West–Eastern Divan, we celebrate two new books: an annotated translation of the original Divan by Eric Ormsby and A New Divan: A Lyrical Dialogue between East and West by 24 contemporary poets writing poems inspired by Goethe’s Divan.

This event will be introduced by Eric Ormsby, followed by poetry from Fatemeh Shams and Mourid Barghouti, who will read their original compositions, while the English-language versions will be read by Narguess Farzad and George Szirtes. The conversation will be matched by a musical dialogue drawing on Hafiz songs set to music by composers Gottfried von Einem, Viktor Ullmann and Richard Strauss.

About The Musicians

Craig White

Craig White is an award-winning pianist, and has worked as an official accompanist and adjudicator across the UK and internationally. In much demand as a chamber musician and accompanist for singers and instrumentalists, he was recently awarded an Associateship of the Royal Academy of Music in London.

Simon Wallfisch

Simon Wallfisch is one of Britain’s most sought-after baritones. In international demand as a recitalist, Simon is passionate about Lieder and Song, his unparalleled and distinctive approach to classical music and the arts has brought him to concert halls all over the world.


Photo credit: Renate Berger

About The Speakers

Eric Ormsby

Professor EricOrmsby is a scholar in the field of Islamic thought. In addition to his extensive writing on Classical Arabic literature and Islamic thought, and his translations from Arabic and Persian, he has published seven poetry collections and is the author of two critical works on poetry and translation. 

Fatemah Shams

Fatemeh Shams was born in Mashhad, Iran. She teaches modern Persian literature at the University of Pennsylvania, and is the author of three poetry collections, including When They Broke Down the Door, which received the 2016 Latifeh Yarshater Award. She is also a recipient of the Jaleh Esfahani Poetry Prize. 

George Szirtes

 George Szirtes was born in Hungary and came to Britain as a child refugee in 1956. His first collection, The Slant Door, was joint-winner of the Faber Prize (1979); a later collection, Reel, won the 2004 T.S. Eliot Prize. He has won various international prizes for his poetry and translations. 

Mourid Barghouti

Mourid Barghouti is a Palestinian poet. He has published fourteen books of poetry. He received the Palestine Award for Poetry and his memoir I Saw Ramallah won the Naguib Mahfouz Medal for Literature. 

Narguess Farzad

Narguess Farzad was born in Tehran, and has a degree in Persian Studies from SOAS, University of London. After working with the BBC World Service’s Persian Service, then as a civil servant, she returned to SOAS as Senior Fellow in Persian. She has published extensively on Persian language and poetry. 

About The Chair

Bill Swainson

Bill Swainson has worked in publishing since 1976 at John Calder, Allison & Busby, Fourth Estate, Harvill Press, Bloomsbury, and as a freelance editor.  Today, as well as working with Gingko, he is Consultant Editor for Fiction at MacLehose Press and Editor at Large for Non-Fiction at Oneworld.