Sholeh Wolpé is an Iranian-born poet and writer. About Wolpé ’s latest collection of poems, Keeping Time with Blue Hyacinths, Shelf Awareness Magazine writes, “A gifted Iranian-American poet beautifully explores love and the loss of love, beauty and war and the ghosts of the past.” Wolpé’s modern translation of The Conference of the Birds by the 12th century Iranian mystic poet, Attar (W.W. Norton), has been hailed by Reza Aslan as a translation that “is sure to be as timeless as the masterpiece itself.”  The inaugural 2018 Writer-in-Residence at UCLA, Wolpé is the recipient of the 2014 PEN/Heim, 2013 Midwest Book Award and 2010 Lois Roth Persian Translation prize, Wolpé ’s literary work includes four collections of poetry, two plays, three books of translations, and three anthologies. Wolpé ’s writings have been translated into eleven languages and included in numerous American and international anthologies and journals of poetry and fiction. Her writings have been featured on programs such as Selected Shorts and PRI. She has lived in the UK and Trinidad, and is a Visiting Associate Professor at the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA).  More information:


Home is a missing tooth.
The tongue reaches
for hardness
but falls
into absence.

From Keeping Time With Blue Hyacinths (University of Arkansas Press)

The Outsider

I know what it’s like to be an outsider, a kharejee.

I know how English sounds
when every word is only music.

I know how it feels not
to be an American, an English, a French.
Call them
             —Amrikayee, Ingleesee, Faransavi,
see them
            see me as alien, immigrant, Iranee.

But I’ve been here so long.
they may call me American,
        with an American husband
        and American children…

But mark this— I do not belong anywhere.
I have an accent in every language I speak.

From Rooftops of Tehran (Red Hen Press)

The Chill

On the bed’s edge,
that precipice of loneliness,
sleep withholds its grace.

He presses his groin to her ass,
his warm hands loving her breasts,
the hollow of her waist,
her shoulder’s arching bones,

kisses the nape of her neck,
sinks his head in her hair like a man
who’s seen the dark ghosts of fog.

She wants to trample
this pain, give him
the lions in her throat,
the swans in her groin,
these wolves in her hips,

but her skin cries no, her bones
won’t budge, and her tongue refuses.

When he pulls away, cold air stirs,
awakens a chill that freezes
and rends their lives into
a thousand irretrievable shards.

From Keeping Time With Blue Hyacinths (University of Arkansas Press)

How Hard Is It to Write a Love Song?

Last night a sparrow flew into my house,
crashed against the skylight and died:
I want to write a love song.

Poppy seed cake on china plate,
tea like auburn gold, the New York Times
open on the table, black with news,
and the man I still love with me.

The newspaper says in Conakry a man is
sticking his Kalashnikov into a woman. Now
he’s pulling the trigger.

Hummingbirds zip through the garden.
My lover slowly rocks in the hammock,
a spy novel on his stomach.

I flip a page and a Nigerian soldier
shoots a man because he’s parked badly,
and takes the dead man’s hat.

The bougainvillea has burst into pinks and reds,
the colors of Kabul’s sidewalks after a suicide attack.
The child next door squeals with laughter.

How hard is it to write a love song?
A little in-the-moment swim,
a bit of Bach—perhaps.

From Keeping Time With Blue Hyacinths (University of Arkansas Press)


Sholeh Wolpé
photo credit: Sophie Kandaouroff



© 2018 Sholeh Wolpé


  MOONDAY HOME PAGE (Current Features)  
MOONDAY (Previous Features)  
                             MOONDAY (Upcoming Features)