The Story

“This reimagining of Goethe’s seminal work gives us the opportunity to re-engage with his thoughts – a much needed exercise, given the state of the world today.”
– Daniel Barenboim (from his Foreword to A New Divan)

In honour of the renowned German poet Johann Wolfgang von Goethe and the 200th anniversary of the first publication of the West-Eastern Divan, his great poem sequence of 1819 inspired by the poems of the great fourteenth-century Persian poet Hafiz, Gingko presents A New Divan: A Lyrical Dialogue between East & West and a new, scholarly translation by Eric Ormsby of the original West-Eastern Divan. A New Divan brings together new poems by twenty-four leading poets – twelve from the ‘East’ and twelve from the ‘West’ – in a truly international poetic dialogue inspired by the culture of ‘the Other’. These publications, and the series of accompanying events at festivals across the UK and at the Barenboim-Said Akademie in Berlin, aim to affirm the famous words from the West-Eastern Divan’s “Gingko Biloba” poem: that “Orient and Occident cannot be parted for evermore.”

People behind the Story

Dr Barbara Haus Schwepcke is the founder of Gingko as well as the chair of its board of trustees. After receiving her doctorate from the London School of Economics, she worked as Publisher of Prospect magazine. In 2003, she founded Haus Publishing.

“The ‘Gingko Biloba’ was Goethe’s ode to friendship and symbolised the union between old and young, man and woman, human and the Divine, literature and scholarship, East and West – a union which in his mind was inseparable.”
– Barbara Schwepcke (on Goethe’s poem ‘Gingko Biloba’ in West-Eastern Divan)

Bill Swainson is a freelance editor and literary consultant. Since 1976 he has worked for leading literary publishers, including John Calder, Allison & Busby, Harvill Press and Bloomsbury, where he was Senior Commissioning Editor for fifteen years. In 2015, he was awarded an OBE for services to literary translation.

“Poetry thrives and develops by cross-fertilisation.”
– Bill Swainson (from his Editor’s Note to A New Divan)

Translator and editor of the West-Eastern Divan, Professor Eric Orsmby is a distinguished scholar in the field of Islamic thought. He studied Greek and Latin at Columbia University, NY, and then Classical Arabic and German at the University of Tübingen, West Germany. He received a doctorate in Near Eastern Studies from Princeton University and taught at McGill University, Montreal for twenty years, where from 1996 he was Professor and Director of the Institute of Islamic Studies. In 2005 he moved to London where he took up a post as Senior Research Associate at the Institute of Ismaili Studies. In addition to his extensive writing on Classical Arabic literature and Islamic thought, and his translations from Arabic and Persian, he has published sever poetry collections and is an essayist and reviewer and the author of two critical works on poetry and translation.

“The West-Eastern Divan represents nothing less than a decisive reconfiguration of German, and indeed European, poetry.”
– Eric Ormsby (from his Introduction to West-Eastern Divan)