Esteemed Poet and Translator Gives Talk on New Book

Dick Davis speaks at Georgetown on his new book
Dick Davis speaks in Riggs Library about his new book The Mirror of My Heart: A Thousand Years of Persian Poetry by Women

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October 31, 2019 — Dick Davis, globally acknowledged leading translator of Persian poetry, gave a reading from his newly published book The Mirror of My Heart: A Thousand Years of Persian Poetry by Women at Georgetown on Thursday, October 24, 2019. 

Women in Poetry

Davis has perfected the art of translating Persian poetry. As Professor Sarah McNamer noted during her introductory remarks, he strikes a difficult balance between flowery lines and scholarly translations. Davis has not only contributed greatly to the translation of Persian poetry, but also sheds light on the underrepresented female authors of these works. 

Prior to the 20th century, most Persian poets were male. If poetry was written by a woman, she tended to be of a higher social standing, such as a princess or a member of the court. Even up to modern day, many poems with female authors have not been studied with the veracity of their male counterparts. Davis has helped bring awareness to these poets by translating their work for the first time. 

Mirror of My Heart contains work by 83 female poets from the 10th to 20th centuries. While at Georgetown, Davis shared poems by three of these poets, the contents of which varied widely from the romantic to the philosophical. 

Davis was quick to mention that many of these female poets broke convention by writing poems that were seen as unladylike. He spoke of them with admiration for their wit and skill, but also of the timelessness of their writing on subjects like love, religion, and death. The awareness that Davis has brought to these poets reminds us that there is much about our past that we can learn from and apply to today, and that by engaging with poets like these, we gain a deeper understanding of our shared humanity. 

Lifelong Passion

Davis has made his career studying medieval Persian culture and poetry, which has helped him to glean the deeper meaning behind the poems he translates from centuries long past. He holds a masters degree from Kings College, Cambridge, and a Ph.D from the University of Manchester. Davis has translated volumes of Persian poetry with the help of his wife Afkham Darbandi. He has also written and published his own poetry such as Belonging, and A Trick of Sunlight.

Collaboration Across Departments

The Global Medieval Studies Program co-sponsored this event with the Department of Arabic and Islamic Studies, the Comparative Literature Program, the Department of English, the Persian Program, and the Jalinous Endowed Fund for Persian Studies, as part of the Georgetown Humanities Initiative, directed by Nicoletta Pireddu

– Shelby Roller