The Conference of the Birds

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“Sholeh Wolpé’s stunning new translation—the first in over 30 years—renders Attar’s engaging, singular voice with wit and flourish.” Literary Hub

“Attar’s grand allegory for the journey of the soul as it seeks union with the divine has influenced countless artists, poets, mystics, and believers around the world. But never before has it been rendered in English with such beauty, elegance, and precision. Wolpe’s translation of this epic is sure to be as timeless as the masterpiece itself.” Reza Aslan, best selling author of No God But God, and Zealot

“In this beautiful rendering of Attar’s Conference of the Birds, Sholeh Wolpe, herself a passionate poet, transports us to another time, another language & another world, while reminding us of how enduring & universal great works of imagination are, how they create spaces within which we not only acknowledge and appreciate our differences but also recognize & celebrate our shared humanity. Only a true poet could achieve such a feat.”  — Azar Nafisi, author of Reading Lolita in Tehran 

“Sholeh Wolpé, the most recent translator of Attar’s epic into English, writes in the foreword to her new version that “the parables in this book trigger memories deep within us all. The stories inhabit the imagination, and slowly over time, their wisdom trickles down into the heart. The process of absorption is unique to every individual, as is each person’s journey. We are the birds in the story.” This is a plausible response to Attar’s pedagogic intentions. We are plainly meant as readers to identify ourselves (or at least our souls) with the birds.”   — The New York Review of Books

“I was struck by this accomplished translation, which moves the reader along from one stanza to the next in strong, compelling rhythms. I think what Sholeh Wolpé has done exceedingly well is to bring this medieval poem over into lively, contemporary English that feels absolutely right and not at all forced. It was a real pleasure to read and enjoy this text from a literature and a world I know so little about.” — Edith Grossman, author of Why Translation Matters

The Conference of the Birds has fascinated writers from Rumi to Borges, and Wolpé’s translation strives to make Attar’s unorthodox and mystical vision accessible to contemporary Western readers.”  — Guernica

“Sholeh Wolpé takes audiences on a journey through the soul’s search for meaning as she rediscovers the light of Attar, considered by Rumi to be the master of Sufi mystic poetry.”   — Poets House, New York

“In this new lyrical translation, Sholeh Wolpé uses her incredible skill as both poet and translator to bring Attar’s spiritual masterpiece into accessible English. As close to the original a reader can come in translation, and imbued with the same kind of revelation, it makes clear why Attar remained such a strong influence on Rumi. The reader travels, along with the poet’s birds, to greater spiritual insight through transcendent verse.” — Roger Sedarat, Persian translator

“PEN chose well when it selected Sholeh Wolpé for the translation grant it has named for the late master translator Michael Heim. In her version, this sly, knowing Sufi classic will surprise and delight a new generation of readers.” — Jack Miles, general editor of The Norton Anthology of World Religions

From Norton’s Winter catalogue:

Award-winning translator Sholeh Wolpé recaptures the beauty and lyricism of one of Persian literature’s most celebrated masterpieces.

Considered by Rumi to be “the master” of Sufi mystic poetry, Attar is best known for his epic poem The Conference of the Birds, a magnificent allegorical tale about the soul’s search for meaning. The poem recounts the perilous journey of the world’s birds to the faraway peaks of Mount Qaf—a mythical mountain that wraps around the earth—in search for the mysterious Simurgh, their king. Attar’s beguiling anecdotes and humor intermingle the sublime with the mundane, the spiritual with the worldly, and the religious with the metaphysical. Reflecting the entire evolution of Sufi mystic tradition, Attar’s poem models the soul’s escape from the mind’s rational embrace.

Sholeh Wolpé is an award-winning poet in English, as well as an award-winning translator. Thus, she is able to recreate the intense beauty of the original Persian in contemporary English verse and poetic prose, fully capturing for the first time the beauty and timeless wisdom of Attar’s masterpiece for modern readers.


Sholeh Wolpé is an Iranian-American poet and writer. She is the recipient of the PEN/Heim grant, the Midwest Book Award, and the Lois Roth Persian Translation prize, among others. Wolpé lives in Los Angeles.”

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