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'You should check out The Oasis of Now because...' Q&A with Kazim Ali

OasisofNow_Front Riffle World Literature's Gina Rodriguez recently sat down with Kazim Ali, co-translator of The Oasis of Now (BOA, 2013), to discuss his thoughts on the new Iranian translation. Here's a nice sample of questions and answers that bring you closer to the exceptional book and its backstory: How did you first discover Sohrab Sepehri’s work? My father had been working in Iran and he brought back several books of poetry by Iranian writers. I was dissatisfied with the translation, though the beauty of the poetry enamored me. It was many more years before I met Jafar Mahallati, who worked with me to understand the Farsi [Persian] so I could make a new translation. What is the most unusual thing you learned while translating this book? Sepehri is an incredibly complex thinker. He is intimately connected to the natural world and often times his language would be very simple but the thinking so dizzyingly complicated. We would have constant rushes of inspiration and be struck speechless by the beauty of his thought. The whole world is animated in Sepehri's view. He was hard to keep up with. How does the translation inform your work as a poet? I share a mystical bent with Sepehri. Christopher Nelson, a poet, once described “mystical” to me as “that which moves beyond the senses.” I like this because the mystical poet is one concerned very much with the real and present material world, but he knows there is so much about the world we barely perceive and know with the physical senses. Sepehri was very much my teacher in this—he taught me that inquiry is constant and has its own deep pleasures. Finish this sentence: You should check out The Oasis of Now because… Sepehri is one of the major Iranian poets of the twentieth century. Iranian poetry is just now becoming known in the United States and so this is a great opportunity for American people to learn more about the rich culture and literature of this dynamic and vibrant and ancient civilization! To order your own copy of The Oasis of Now, visit the BOA Bookstore. Click here to read the entire Riffle interview.
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