Bill Wolak, a US poet who is in love with Hyderabad talks to Cityplus about his love for the City of Pearls and the translation he has done of legendary Persian poet Hafez.
The city of Nizams resonates with mellifluous poetry and the same becomes even more desirable when somebody travels from across the seas just to be with the city he loves and express his love for poetry in the city’s regal language – Persian that is. Meet Bill Wolak US poet and professor of English and Comparative Literature in William Paterson University who was recently in Hyderabad for his poetry reading at Goethe Zentrum entitled ‘Kissing Moonlight: Hafez and the resonance of Desire. He talks about his love for Hyderabad and Hafez.
While Bill was studying for his graduation in Rutgers University he was introduced to the exquisitely beautiful world of Oriental Literature namely Persian. He studied it closely and fell in love with its verse. He says, “Literature lovers anywhere in the world would find Hafez unprecedented. And anyone who loves Hafez would understand a man who had reached the lofty pinnacle of deep philosophy. Hafez, in his poems, talks about love and Art so delicately that you feel the rhythmic threads actually mingling with your thoughts. This love as the saying goes can move mountains and change the world. It can affect anyone in its own special way.”
Bill is an aficionado of Shamz Tabrez and Mevlana Jalaluddin Rumi and his ethereal love for Sufism gets deeper with each passing day. He elaborates, “The goal in Sufism is to depict the indescribable experiences, the sap of wine and the smooth flow of music. The Sufis talk about their philososphies through wine and the reader gets closer to saqi. It makes you intoxicated as if you were in a caravanserai. Sufism you can find in many traditions be it Hinduism-Bhakti or Chinese traditions. The essence of life is revived.
On translating Hafez
While he was completing his degree he met an Iranian doctorate fellow Ahmad Karimi Hakak that made him more inclined towards Persian literature. But unfortunately they lost touch. Bill explains, “I became friends with his younger brother Mahmood Karimi Hakak who stayed in New York City. He, too, is a poet and translator. Mahmood introduced me to Hafez’s work. One day he suggested that we both translate Persian poetry of Hafez. I agreed.” And that’s how the book ‘Your Lover’s Beloved’ – 51 ghazals by Hafez came into translation from Persian into English by both of them.
He has been invited as featured in Hyderabad Literary Festival held in for the last two years. This is the third time he is visiting Hyderabad. “I am in love with the city for its culture and tehzeeb that’s still preserved in some hearts. I just love the Deccan architecture blended with Gothic designs and of course the legendary history that is buried in its stones that has poetry of its own,” says Bill. He adds, “I’ve been invited to be a featured poet at the Hyderabad Literary Festival for the last two years. I had a German translator friend of mine Silvia Kofler translate the ten Hafez ghazals into German. Then my friends John and Joan Digby helped me make these German translations into a small book which titled ‘Those who Stood Up For Tolerance’.
He roams around in the city with his high end camera capturing history in the passing time seeing everything from a different angle that his lenses give a different facet much like his own poetry.
Next on his wish list
Mahmood Karimi Hakak and Bill has just translated a Persian poet Iraj Mirza with entitled ‘Love Me More Than the Others’. He says, “Mahmood and I will be setting up a book launch for this new translation across the US and Canada. In addition, I will be hosting two Indian poets at readings in the US: Dileep Jhaveri, Yuyustu Ram Dass Sharma, who is a distinguished poet based in Katmandu, Nepal.”
Bill Wolak has written other poetry books of his own in English namely ‘Archaeology of Light’, ‘The Lover’s Body’, ‘The Statue of Lighting’ and many other anthologies. “My works talk about love and words explore the deeper recesses of lovers. In America there’s a deep spiritual longing for poets like Kabir, Amir Khusro, Zen, Krisna and Tibetan figure Milarepa. No wonder the most popular poet selling now in America is Rumi,” he adds. Signing off he says, “I am going to visit Hyderabad again and again. Like poetry my love for this city will never end.”
"I am going to visit Hyderabad again and again Like poetry my love for this city will never end"