Haleh Liza Gafori

Vocalist, Poet, Educator
Translator of Rumi

Readings &
Lecture Topics
  • The Insight of Rumi
  • An Evening with Haleh Liza Gafori

Biography

“There’s a rich fluency here not just in idiom but in gesture, in spirit. It’s uncanny to encounter eight-hundred-year-old verse this urgent. Gafori’s Rumi teaches me how to wander into mystery—“humble as soil”—without galloping toward some hasty and inorganic conclusion. What a gift this is, what gold.” —Kaveh Akbar

“Gorgeous, fluent, faithful.” —Pádraig Ó Tuama

Haleh Liza Gafori is a translator, vocalist, poet, and educator. Born in New York City, she grew up hearing recitations of Persian poetry. Her translations of contemporary Persian poets such as Sohrab Sepehri and Omran Salahi, along with a selection of original work, earned her an Academy of American Poets Prize and the Goodman Grant for Poetry. Her book, Gold (New York Review Books Classics/Penguin Random House, 2022), offers translations of poems by Rumi, the 13th century sage and mystic. Poet Marilyn Hacker describes Gold as, “the work of someone who is at once an acute and enamored reader of the original Farsi text, a dedicated miner of context and backstory, and a marvelous poet in English.” A bicultural woman with ears tuned to American poetry as well as to the subtleties of the Persian text, Gafori aims to transmit the whirling movement and leaping progression of thought and imagery in Rumi’s poems into the music of contemporary American poetry.

Of her teaching, a former workshop participant reflected, “Within five minutes of Haleh Liza Gafori’s workshop on The Insight of Rumi I knew our time together was going to be special. I was not prepared, however, for the transformational experience that unfolded for me over the three days we spent exploring the wisdom of Rumi. Haleh’s extraordinary insight into the truths embodied in Rumi’s poetry contributed to one of the most revelatory and emotionally positive experiences I have ever had. Drawing on her intimate knowledge of both Persian and Western language and cultures, interspersed with recitation, chant and music, Haleh took us on a journey of profound passion and inspiration. I came away infused with a desire to pass through this world in a more enlightened and meaningful way.”

Gafori’s work has been featured in Literary Hub, Hyperallergic, The Marginalian, the Marquaz Review, and Rattapallax. Her poem “Orange Alert” was anthologized in Love and Forgiveness for a More Just World, edited by Hent de Vries and Nils F. Schott (Columbia University Press, 2015). In current and past musical projects, including Haale and The Mast, Gafori has toured across the US and in Europe, playing events such as One Note at Carnegie Hall, the Lincoln Center Out of Doors Festival, and the Bonnaroo Festival. She has released a few albums to critical acclaim, from which songs have appeared in NBC’s series “Life” and CWTV’s series “The Originals.” In 2018-2019, she translated, composed, and performed in the collaborative multi-media project called “Ask Hafez,” supported by the Queens Council on the Arts.

Regarding the art of translation, Gafori said, “It is a boon for readers when a translator is steeped in both cultures, aware of context, double and triples meanings inside words, nuance, and idiomatic expressions in both languages. However astonishing the rhythm, rhyme, and wordplay of the source language may be, the translator must be able to forgo this music to create new music in the target language. My ears are tuned to the rhythms and melodies of contemporary American poetry, and I hope the images and meanings of the Persian texts sing through its modes.” Sharing her passion for the expansive, compassionate, and ecstatic nature of Rumi’s poetry and philosophy, Gafori has taught classes at universities, festivals, and institutions including Dartmouth University, Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts, Taos Poetry Festival, and the Omega Institute. She worked as a teaching artist through City Lore in NYC and between 2015 and 2019 offered weekly presentations on private tours at the Metropolitan Museum of Art and the Rubin Museum of Art.

A graduate of Stanford University, Gafori received her MFA in creative writing from CCNY. She lives in Brooklyn, NY.

Short Bio

Haleh Liza Gafori is a translator, vocalist, poet, and educator. Born in New York City, she grew up hearing recitations of Persian poetry. Her translations of contemporary Persian poets such as Sohrab Sepehri and Omran Salahi, along with a selection of original work, earned her an Academy of American Poets Prize and the Goodman Grant for Poetry. Her book, Gold (New York Review Books Classics/Penguin Random House, 2022), offers translations of poems by Rumi, the 13th century sage and mystic. Gafori’s work has been published by Columbia University Press, Literary Hub, Hyperallergic, The Marginalian, the Marquaz Review, and Rattapallax. In current and past musical projects, including Haale and The Mast, Gafori has toured across the US and in Europe.  She lives in Brooklyn, NY.

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