Sholeh Wolpé


“Cultures and people must engage through literature and the arts, not politicians.”
           –Sholeh Wolpé

Photo by Bonnie Perkinson

Sholeh Wolpé is a poet, literary translator and writer. She was born in Iran and spent most of her teen years in Trinidad and the UK before settling in the United States. Wolpé’s work include four collections of poetry, a play, three books of translations, and three anthologies.

Her recent work includes her translation of  Sufi mystic poet Attar’s masterpiece, The Conference of the Birds, which was awarded the prestigious PEN/Heim grant and lauded as an “artful and exquisite modern translation.” According to bestselling author Reza Aslan, “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.”

About her most recent book 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.” Poet and essayist Kwame Dawes lauds it as a “collection that delights and disturbs, often in the very same poem.”

Wolpé is the recipient of the 2014 PEN/Heim, 2013 Midwest Book Award, 2010 Lois Roth Persian Translation prize, 2015 Chateau De Lavigny residency in Switzerland, and 2014 Hedgebrook Women’s residency on Whidbey Island. Her play SHAME was a 2016 finalist for both Ashland New Plays Festival, and and a semifinalist for Eugene O’Niell National Playwrights Conference in Connecticut.

About her poems, The Poetry Foundation writes, “Wolpé’s concise, unflinching, and often wry free verse explores violence, culture, and gender.” Poet and novelist Chris Abani writes, “Sholeh Wolpé’s poems are political, satirical, and unflinching in the face of war, tyranny and loss. Talismanic and alchemical, they attempt to transmute experience into the magic of the imagined. But they also dare to be tender and funny lyrical moments.”

Wolpé’s translations of the iconic Iranian poet Forugh Farrokhzad, Sin, is now in its fourth printing and was awarded the prestigious Lois Roth Persian Translation Award in 2010. Her co-translation of Walt Whitman’s Song of Myself into Persian (with Mohsen Emadi) was commissioned by the University of Iowa’s International Program as the first ever literary translation of Whitman’s masterpiece.

Wolpé has performed her poems and translations with world renowned musicians at Quincy Jones Presents series on Broad Stage, Skirball Cultural Center Series, Los Angeles Aloud, and LACMA stage, among others.  Her writings have been translated into eleven languages, and a collection of her poems in Spanish, Cómo Escribir una Canción de Amor, is forthcoming in Mexico and Spain. Her work is included in numerous American and international anthologies and journals of poetry and fiction, including PBS Frontline, Guernica, The Best American Poetry blog, Callaloo, and World Literature Today. She has taught poetry and literary translation at Stonecoast’s MFA program, and is a contributing editor to Los Angeles Review of Books.  She is based in Los Angeles.