Sholeh Wolpé

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Sholeh Wolpé
photo by Jordan Elgrably
Native name
شعله ولپی
BornTehran, Iran
Occupationpoet, playwright, literary translator
LanguageEnglish, Persian, Spanish
Alma materGeorge Washington University, Northwestern University, Johns Hopkins University
Notable worksThe Conference of the Birds, Keeping Time With Blue Hyacinths,The Scar Saloon, Rooftops of Tehran, Sin: Selected Poems of Forugh Farrokhzad, The Forbidden: Poems From Iran and Its Exiles, Breaking the Jaws of Silence, Walt Whitman's Song of Myself: Persian Edition,
Notable awards2014 PEN/Heim Translation Fund award, 2014 Hedgebrook Residency, 2013 Midwest Book Award, 2010 Lois Roth Persian Translation Award,Le Château de Lavigny residency
(m. 2018)

Sholeh Wolpé (Persian: شعله ولپی‎; born 6 March ) is an award-winning Iranian-American poet, playwright, and literary translator .[1] She was born in Iran, and has lived in Trinidad, England and United States.


Sholeh Wolpé was born in Tehran, Iran, and spent most of her teen years in Trinidad and the UK before settling in the United States. The Poetry Foundation has written that “Wolpé’s concise, unflinching, and often wry free verse explores violence, culture, and gender. So many of Wolpé’s poems deal with the violent situation in the Middle East, yet she is ready to both bravely and playfully refuse to let death be too proud.”[2]

Wolpe's literary translations have garnered several prestigious awards.[3][4] Wolpé was named a 2020-2021 "Cultural Trailblazer" by the City of Los Angeles Department of Cultural Affairs. She is the Writer-In-Residence at University of California, Irvine, and lives in Los Angeles

Literary career[edit]

A recipient of 2014 PEN/Heim Translation Fund grant, 2014 Hedgebrook Residency, the 2013 Midwest Book Award, and 2010 Lois Roth Persian Translation prize, Wolpé literary work includes five collections of poetry, four books of translations, three anthologies and several plays.

Her play The Conference of the Birds (world premiere Ubuntu Theater, November 30, 2018) is an adaptation of 12th Century Sufi mystic Attar's epic poem. Her play SHAME was a 2016 Eugene O'Neill Theater Center's National Playwright conference semifinalist, and she was one of ten Centenary Stage Women Playwrights Series finalists in 2016.

Wolpé’s first collection, The Scar Saloon, was lauded by Billy Collins as “poems that cast a light on some of what we all hold in common.”[5] Poet and novelist Chris Abani called the poems "political, satirical, and unflinching in the face of war, tyranny and loss ... they transmute experience into the magic of the imagined."[5]

The poems in Wolpé’s second collection, Rooftops of Tehran, were called by poet Nathalie Handal “as vibrant as they are brave,” and Richard Katrovas wrote that its publication was a “truly rare event: an important book of poetry.”[6]

Wolpé’s translations of the Iranian poet Forugh Farrokhzad’s selected work, Sin, was awarded the Lois Roth Persian Translation Award in 2010. The judges wrote that they “found themselves experiencing Forugh’s Persian poems with new eyes.”[7] Alicia Ostriker praised the translations as “hypnotic in their beauty and force.” Willis Barnstone found them “extravagantly majestic,” and of such order that “they resurrect Forugh.”[8]

Sholeh Wolpé and Mohsen Emadi’s translations of Walt Whitman’s "Song of Myself" (آواز خويشتن) were commissioned by the University of Iowa’s International Program. They are currently on University of Iowa’s Whitman website and will be available in print in Iran.[9]

Robert Olen Butler lauded Wolpé's anthology, Breaking the Jaws of Silence as “a deeply humane and aesthetically exhilarating collection.”[10] Wolpé's 2012 anthology,The Forbidden: Poems from Iran and Its Exiles, a recipient of the 2013 Midwest Book Award, includes many of Wolpé’s own translations, and was called by American poet Sam Hamil a “most welcome gift” that “embraces and illuminates our deepest human bonds and hopes.”[11]

Wolpé’s Iran Edition of the Atlanta Review became that journal’s best-selling issue.[12] Wolpé is also a regional editor of Tablet and Pen: Literary Landscapes from The Modern Middle East (edited by Reza Aslan),[13] and a contributing editor of the Los Angeles Review of Books.[14]

Wolpé’s modern translation of The Conference of the Birds by the 12th Century Iranian Sufi mystic poet "Attar", was lauded by PEN lauded as an “artful and exquisite modern translation.”[15] About the book, W.W. Norton & Co writes: "Wolpé re-creates 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."

In 2019 Wolpé began a collaboration with composer Fahad Siadat and choreographer Andre Megerdichian for an oratorio, The Conference of the Birds, based on Sufi mystic poet Attar's work.

Wolpe's poems and translations have been set to music by American composer Shawn Crouch, Iranian composers Niloufar Nourbakhsh,[16] and Sahba Aminikia [17] and Australian composer Brook Rees [18] and Iranian vocalist and musicians Mamak Khadem,[19] Sahba Motallebi,[20] and Sussan Deyhim.[21][22][23][24] She has written lyrics for American jazz band San Gabriel 7.[25]



  • The Outsider (Recent Works Press, Australia, 2018) [26]
  • The Conference of the Birds (W.W. Norton & Co, 2017)[27]
  • Cómo escribir una canción de amor (Casa Del Libros, Spain, 2017)[28]
  • Blue Swedish for Nowruz, short stories. Translations. (Dracopis Press, Sweden, 2015)[29]
  • Keeping Time with Blue Hyacinths (University of Arkansas Press, 2013)[30]
  • Breaking the Jaws of Silence (University of Arkansas Press, 2013)[10]
  • The Forbidden--Poems from Iran and Its Exiles (Michigan State University Press, 2012)[31]
  • Sin: Selected Poems of Forugh Farrokhzad (University of Arkansas 2007)[8]
  • Rooftops of Tehran (Red Hen Press 2007)[32]
  • The Scar Saloon (Red Hen Press 2004)[32]

Other work[edit]

  • Atlanta Review — Iran Issue 2010 Edited by Sholeh Wolpe[33]
  • Tablet & Pen — Literary Landscapes from the Modern Middle East Edited by Reza Aslan; Sholeh Wolpe, regional editor, (W.W. Norton 2010)[33]

Other publications[edit]

Wolpe's work can be found in the following anthologies:

  • Ordinary Chaos of Being Human, Tales from Many Muslim Worlds, Penguin 2020. [34]
  • Choice Words: Writers on Abortion, Haymarket books, 2020.[35]
  • Displaced Lives, edited by Alok Bhalla and Ming Di, MANOA Press, 2020.[36]
  • Dear America: Letters of Hope, Habitat, Defiance, and Democracy, edited by Simmons Buntin, Elizabeth Dodd, and Derek Sheffield,Trinity University Press, 2020.[37]
  • The Heart of a Stranger: An Anthology of Exile Literature, edited by André Naffis-Sahely, Pushkin Press, 2019.[38]
  • Ink Knows No Borders, edited by Patrice Vicchione and Alyssa Rayond, Seven Stories Press, 2019.[39]
  • Poetas de Otros Mundos, Editor Literario, Ángel Guinda, OLIFANTE. Col. Serie Maior, España 2018.[40]
  • Making Mirrors: Writing//Righting by Refugees, edited by Becky Thompson and Jehan Bseiso. Interlink Publishing Group, September 2018.[41]
  • The Golden Shovel Anthology (University of Arkansas Press, 2017)[42]
  • Others Will Enter the Gates: Immigrant Poets on Poetry, Influences and Writing in America (Black Lawrence Press, 2015) [43]
  • Wide Awake: Poets of Los Angeles and Beyond, (Pacific Coast Poetry Series, 2015)[44]
  • Veils, Halos, and Shackles: International Poetry on the Oppression and Empowerment of Women, (Kasva Press, 2015)[45]
  • Flash Fiction Funny: 82 Very Short Humorous Stories (Blue Light Press, 2013)[46]
  • Al-Mutanabbi Street Starts Here: Poets and Writers Respond to the March 5th, 2007, Bombing of Baghdad's "Street of the Booksellers" (PM Press, 2012)[47]
  • How To Free a Naked Man from a Rock: An Anthology (Red Hen Press, 2011)[48]
  • Sudden Flash Youth: 65 Short Short Stories (Persea Books, April 2011)[49]
  • Tremors: New Fiction by Iranian American Writers (University of Arkansas Press, 2013)[50]
  • Poetry of Provocation and Witness from Split This Rock (wordpress, 2012)[51]
  • The Forbidden: Poems from Iran and its exiles (Michigan State University, 2012)[52]
  • Tablet & Pen: Literary Landscapes from the Modern Middle East (W W Norton 2010)[53]
  • Rumpus Original Poetry Anthology (The Rumpus, 2012)[54]
  • Language for a New Century: Contemporary Poetry from the Middle East, Asia & Beyond (Norton, 2008)[55]
  • Powwow: American Short Fiction from Then to Now (Da Capo Press, an imprint of the Perseus Books Group Inc., 2009)[56]
  • The Poetry of Iranian Woman, A contemporary anthology (Reelcontent, 2009)[57]
  • Been There, Read That: The Armchair Traveler's Companion (Victoria University Press, 2008)[58]
  • In Our Own Words—A Generation Defining Itself (MW Enterprises, New York 2007)[59]
  • Evensong: Contemporary Poems of Spirituality (Bottom Dog Press, 2006)[60]
  • Yellow as Turmeric, Fragrant as Cloves, — An anthology of Asian American Female Poets (Deep Bowl Press, Feb. 2008)[61]
  • Inlandia: A Literary Journey Through California's Inland Empire (Heyday Books, 2006)[62]
  • Let Me Tell You Where I've Been: New Writing by Women of the Iranian Diaspora (University of Arkansas Press, 2006)[63]
  • The Other Side of Sorrow (Poetry Society of New Hampshire 2006)[64]
  • Strange Times, My Dear: The PEN Anthology of Contemporary Iranian Literature (Arcade Publishing, April 2005)[65]
  • So Luminous the Wildflowers, An Anthology of California Poets (Tebot Bach, 2003)[66]


  1. ^ Poetry Foundation, Sholeh Wolpe Archived September 26, 2012, at the Wayback Machine
  2. ^ "Sholeh Wolpé". Poetry Foundation. Retrieved 2017-03-29.
  3. ^ "Sholeh Wolpe". The Lois Roth Endowment. Retrieved 2018-09-18.
  4. ^ "PEN/Heim Translation Fund Grant Recipients - PEN America". Retrieved 2018-09-18.
  5. ^ a b Sholeh Wolpe. "The Scar Saloon". Retrieved 2017-03-29.
  6. ^ Sholeh Wolpe. "Rooftops of Tehran". Retrieved 2017-03-29.
  7. ^ "Sholeh Wolpe » The Lois Roth Endowment". Retrieved 2017-03-29.
  8. ^ a b In Middle East Studies and Poetry (2010-09-01). "Sin". Retrieved 2017-03-29.
  9. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2012-10-26. Retrieved 2012-11-05.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  10. ^ a b "Breaking the Jaws of Silence". 2013-02-01. Retrieved 2017-03-29.
  11. ^ "MSU Press honored with Midwest Book Award | MSUToday | Michigan State University". 2013-05-16. Retrieved 2017-03-29.
  12. ^ Daniel Veach (2009-06-20). "IRAN Issue". Retrieved 2017-03-29.
  13. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2014-09-10. Retrieved 2014-07-27.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  14. ^ "Sholeh Wolpe - Los Angeles Review of Books". 2011-08-25. Retrieved 2017-03-29.
  15. ^ "The Conference of the Birds | PEN America". Retrieved 2016-06-26.
  16. ^ "Opera". Nilou Nour | Composer Pianist. 2019-09-01. Retrieved 2020-07-18.
  17. ^ Rhyme by Rhyme, Sahba Aminikia (composer) Commissioned by Amaranth Quartet to be premiered at the National Museum of Women in the Arts in Washington D.C. as part of Shenson Chamber Music series on May 8, 2019. Lyrics by Sholeh Wolpé  based on her translation of a poem by Tahirih.
  18. ^ "Sholeh Wolpe & Brook J. Rees & Brook J. Rees: Digital Music". Retrieved 2017-03-29.
  19. ^ "Arts United4Iran - Mamak Khadem: "I am Neda" - YouTube". Retrieved 2020-07-18.
  20. ^ "East and West, an evening of poetry and music with Sholeh Wolpe and Sahba Motallebi -- full video - YouTube". Retrieved 2020-07-18.
  21. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2014-11-12. Retrieved 2014-11-12.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  22. ^ "Event Categories". Retrieved 2017-03-29.
  23. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2014-11-12. Retrieved 2014-11-12.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  24. ^ "Events Calendar - Center for the Art of Performance at UCLA". Retrieved 2017-03-29.
  25. ^ "Lost My Heart - San Gabriel Jazz". 2017-02-07. Retrieved 2017-03-29.
  26. ^ Press, Recent Work. "The Outsider". RECENT WORK PRESS. Retrieved 2018-09-18.
  27. ^ "The Conference of the Birds | W. W. Norton & Company". Retrieved 2017-03-29.
  28. ^ "CÓMO ESCRIBIR UNA CANCIÓN DE AMOR | SHOLEH WOLPE | Comprar libro 9788494674815". (in Spanish). Retrieved 2018-09-18.
  29. ^ "DRACOPIS PRESS". Retrieved 2018-09-18.
  30. ^ "Wolpe". Retrieved 2017-03-29.
  31. ^ Sholeh Wolpé. "Book | MSU Press | The Forbidden". MSU Press. Retrieved 2017-03-29.
  32. ^ a b "Sholeh Wolpe". Retrieved 2017-03-29.
  33. ^ a b "Contents | Tablet & Pen | W. W. Norton & Company". Retrieved 2017-03-29.
  34. ^ "The Ordinary Chaos of Being Human – Penguin Random House SEA". Retrieved 2020-07-18.
  35. ^ "Choice Words". Retrieved 2020-07-18.
  36. ^ "2019 | Mānoa: A Pacific Journal of International Writing". Retrieved 2020-07-18.
  37. ^ Dear America.
  38. ^ "The Heart of a Stranger by Various Authors | Pushkin Press | 9781782274261". Retrieved 2020-07-18.
  39. ^ "Ink Knows No Borders". Retrieved 2020-07-18.
  40. ^ "Olifante Ediciones de Poesía · Catálogo: Poetas de Otros Mundos. Resistencia y verdad". Olifante Ediciones de Poesía · Catálogo. Retrieved 2020-07-18.
  41. ^ Digital, C. H. C. (2018-10-29). "Interlink Publishing". Interlink Publishing. Retrieved 2020-07-18.
  42. ^ "The Golden Shovel". Retrieved 2017-03-29.
  43. ^ "BLP » Others Will Enter the Gates: Immigrant Poets on Poetry, Influences, and Writing in America". Retrieved 2017-03-29.
  44. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2017-03-19. Retrieved 2017-03-27.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  45. ^ "Veils, Halos & Shackles". Kasva Press. Retrieved 2017-03-29.
  46. ^ "Flash Fiction Funny | Pegasus Books". 2013-11-25. Retrieved 2017-03-29.
  47. ^ "Beau Beausoleil". PM Press. Retrieved 2017-03-29.
  48. ^ Spencer Seward. "How to Free a Naked Man from a Rock". Retrieved 2017-03-29.
  49. ^ "Please Login for this Restricted Resource | Miami University Libraries". Retrieved 2017-03-29.
  50. ^ In Fiction and Middle East Studies. "Tremors". Retrieved 2017-03-29.
  51. ^ "Poetry of Provocation and Witness from Split This Rock: Poem #1 | 10 YEARS + COUNTING". 2011-06-21. Retrieved 2017-03-29.
  52. ^ Sholeh Wolpé. "Book | MSU Press | The Forbidden". MSU Press. Retrieved 2017-03-29.
  53. ^ "Tablet & Pen | W. W. Norton & Company". Retrieved 2017-03-29.
  54. ^ "Introducing The Rumpus Original Poetry Anthology". 2012-03-08. Retrieved 2017-03-29.
  55. ^ "Language for a New Century | W. W. Norton & Company". Retrieved 2017-03-29.
  56. ^ Ishmael Reed; Carla Blank (2009-10-04). "Pow Wow: American Short Fiction from Then to Now". Retrieved 2017-03-29.
  57. ^ Kalbasi, Sheema (2009). The Poetry of Iranian Women: A Contemporary Anthology. ISBN 9780578002378. Retrieved 2017-03-29.
  58. ^ "Been There, Read That! Stories for the Armchair Traveller - Victoria University Press". Retrieved 2017-03-29.
  59. ^ Marlow Peerse Weavver. In Our Own Words - A Generation Defining Itself - Vol 7. ISBN 9780965413695.
  60. ^ Gerry LaFemina; Chad Prevost (2014-01-08). Evensong: Contemporary American Poets on Spirituality. ISBN 9781933964010.
  61. ^ "Yellow as Turmeric, Fragrant as Cloves (2008 Finalist) â€" Foreword INDIES". Retrieved 2017-03-29.
  62. ^ "Publications: Inlandia:A Literary Journey Through California's Inland Empire". Inlandia Institute. Retrieved 2017-03-29.
  63. ^ In Literature and Middle East Studies (2006-05-16). "Let Me Tell You Where I've Been". Retrieved 2017-03-29.
  64. ^ Cicely Buckley; Patricia Frisella (2007-03-31). The Other Side of Sorrow: Poets, Speak Out About Conflict, War, and Peace. ISBN 9780972416719.
  65. ^ Nahid Mozaffari; Ahmad Karimi-Hakkak. Strange Times, My Dear: The PEN Anthology of Contemporary Iranian Literature. Retrieved 2017-03-29.
  66. ^ "Publications". Tebot Bach. 1930-07-06. Retrieved 2017-03-29.

External links[edit]