Sholeh Wolpé is the recipient of a 2014 PEN/Heim Translation Fund Grant for The Conference of the Birds (Man-tiq ut-tayr) by Farid ud-Din Attar, one of the greatest Sufi mystic poets of Iran. This artful and exquisite modern translation brings one of the definitive masterpieces of Persian literature to the English-speaking world. Read Wolpé’s essay on translating The Conference of the Birds here.

Valley of Love

Next comes the Valley of Love.

Walk here and drown in fire
for in this valley only fire lives.

If you are not a lover of fire,
then leave,
because a true lover
is one with fire,
a true lover ignites,
sizzles and chars like fire.

There’s no providence
in the Valley of Love,
not a single grain of thought
about infidels and the faithful,
doubts or convictions.

Here a lover joyfully
gathers and throws
a hundred worlds
into the fire.

Here right and wrong
are mates
because in love
one is the same
as the other.

You who stand aloof,
this valley is not for you
You deniers,
this place will not appeal to you.

The lovers worthy
of being in this valley
give away everything
and boast day and night
of their approaching union
with the Beloved.

Others may search for their desires
in plans and tomorrows,
but true lovers know
that everything they desire
is right there
in the Valley of Love.

If you cannot release your
self into a quick blaze,
then how can you let go
of all your despair?

If silk does not burn
to its most inner core
how can it then brighten
its own heart with joy?

If a fish should fall on the shore
from the sea
it flaps and struggles
until it falls back.

In this valley love is fire,
mind is smoke.
Then is it any wonder
that when love arrives,
reason flees?

The mind is not a master
in the art of love;
love is not the offspring
of the human mind.

If sight is gifted to you
by the Invisible,
that’s when you will finally see
the heart of love.

Every leaf exists because of love;
their necks are bowed
from their intoxication with love.

Open those eyes gifted to you
and fuse with the universe.
But if you only open
the eyes of the mind,
you will never see love in full.

Love is the business
of the experienced.
Love is the business
of the free.

You who are neither
experienced nor in love,
are dead and not deserving of love.

In this thousand-branch road,
the joyful in heart must offer up
a hundred lives with each and every breath.

This translation is available for publication.

This piece is part of PEN’s 2014 translation series, which features excerpts and essays from the recipients of this year’s PEN/Heim Translation Fund Grants.