Join author, educator, and learner, Annmarie Kelly as she laughs, cries, and kvetches with the writers, musicians, entrepreneurs, and wanderers who inspire all of us to reach beyond our divisions and discover what it means to be wild, precious, and brave.
Translate Love and Compassion with Haleh Liza Gafori
As a child, Haleh Liza Gafori was introduced to Rumi’s Persian poetry, and as an adult, she began singing and translating these same poems. Annmarie and Haleh talk about the timelessness of this 13th century mystic, how Rumi’s work offers “liberating and nourishing perspectives” still vital to us today, and how we can both lose and find ourselves in the depth of his words.
Art Heals All Wounds – a podcast about artists transforming lives with their work. Each week, we hear from artists grappling with the problems we’re all struggling with, too. We discover self-compassion, empathy, and common ground. If you are longing for transformation and ready to unlock your own inner artist, you can find Art Heals All Wounds wherever you get your podcasts.
Greenlight Bookstore – Through knowledgeable staff, curated book selection, community partnerships, and a robust e-commerce website, Greenlight combines the best traditions of the neighborhood bookstore with a forward-looking sensibility, and welcomes readers of every kind to the heart of Brooklyn. Learn more and shop online at greenlightbookstore.com.
Art Heals All Wounds–a podcast about artists transforming lives with their work. Each week, we hear from artists grappling with the problems we’re all struggling with, too. We discover self-compassion, empathy, and common ground. If you are longing for transformation and ready to unlock your own inner artist, you can find Art Heals All Wounds wherever you get your podcasts.
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Annmarie Kelly: Wild Precious Life is brought to you by Art Heals All Wounds, a podcast about artists transforming lives with their work. I don't know about you, but I feel like most of us have spent entirely too long in the season of brokenness, confusion, and loss. As the sun finally tiptoes out from behind the clouds, I feel myself opening to the possibility of wholeness and healing. That's where Art Heals All Wounds comes in. Each week, we hear from artists grappling with the problems we're all struggling with too. We discover self-compassion, empathy, and common ground. One listener described Art Heals All Wounds as vulnerable and wise, others have called it inspired and wholesome, like rediscovering the lost art of conversation.
Annmarie Kelly: So if you are longing for transformation and ready to unlock your own inner artist, you can find Art Heals All Wounds wherever you get your podcasts. And stay tuned at the end of today's episode to hear a trailer. Wild Precious Life is brought to you in part by Greenlight Bookstore. Through knowledgeable staff, curated book selection, community partnerships, and a robust eCommerce website, Greenlight combines the best traditions of the neighborhood bookstore with a forward-looking sensibility and welcomes readers of every kind to the heart of Brooklyn. Learn more and shop online at greenlightbookstore.com.
Annmarie Kelly: I don't know about you, but I feel like I aged a decade over the last two years. Everything seems so tenuous, so uncertain, so strained. Everything we thought we could count on was a rug pulled out from under us. The only real and surefire thing I've been left with since the pandemic is love, love for my kids and my partner, love for family members and friends, many of whom I still haven't seen since the before times, love for the strange, sometimes terrible, but still beautiful world we get to inhabit for our unknown number of days and hopefully years.
Annmarie Kelly: Since reading the love poems translated by today's guest, I've been thinking about how often I used to hold love in. I didn't want to seem too loopy or sentimental or make myself too vulnerable. I didn't want to open myself up to hurt. But after reading these poems and living through these difficult years, I'm tired of wasting time. What's the use of holding love back? What's the reason for guarding your heart? If you get hurt, you get hurt, but if you get love, isn't that worth the risk?
Annmarie Kelly: None of us is getting any younger. So today's episode comes with a few calls to action. Go ahead and say you're sorry when you hurt someone. Own your shitty behavior. Go ahead and let yourself feel hope and excitement for stuff that may or may not happen; weddings, vacations, dreams, and go ahead and tell the people you love that you love them. Tell them often and in interesting ways. Unload the dishwasher, share the remote, smile. And PS, don't be afraid to talk to someone who's smarter than you. Today's guest literally wrote the book on the poet, Rumi. I was so nervous to talk to her. What if I sounded dumb? But I tell you what, life is too short to hang out in imposter syndrome. Just show up, do your best, and know you belong wherever you are.
Annmarie Kelly: So let me tell you about Haleh. Haleh Liza Gafori is a translator, vocalist, poet, and educator. She grew up hearing recitations of Persian poetry and has deepened her connection through singing and translating for well over a decade. Her book, Gold, features Haleh's translations of poems by Rumi, the 13th century sage and mystic. Haleh believes his words offer liberating and nourishing perspectives vital to our times, inviting us into deeper levels of love and generosity. Haleh Liza Gafori, welcome to Wild Precious Life.
Haleh Liza Gafori: Thank you. Happy to be here.
Annmarie Kelly: I'm so glad you're here. I first came to your work through a recommendation from the indefatigable Elizabeth Lesser, who has also been a guest on this program. And as you probably know, she is a lifelong Rumi aficionado, which is the work that you've recently translated, and she described your book this way, "Haleh Liza Gafori has taken Rumi's original Farsi text and unleashed its fire. My soul sours reading each one." High praise.
Haleh Liza Gafori: High praise, yeah. Thankful for that. She's wonderful. She's wonderful. A wonderful writer and certainly has been immersed in his poetry for a long time.
Annmarie Kelly: Absolutely. Well, before we take a deep dive into Rumi and his work, I wonder if we could actually back up and just have you tell us your story?
Haleh Liza Gafori: Yeah. Well, I guess my story in relation to the book, I'll just start there. I started translating Rumi in 2016. He's actually been a recurring force in my life since babyhood, I guess. My parents were reciting him when I was a child. It's very common for Iranians to memorize poetry. So I would hear his words in Persian when I was a child, didn't quite understand what I was hearing, but certainly was amazed by how much energy the lines carried, and the rhythm and rhyme, and the propulsive nature of these poems, and what would happen in the room when they were recited. Something would change, something would shift. So that was an early memory. And then I started reading translations when I got older of Rumi in English. So it was interesting that then American translators kind of pointed me back to my roots in a way. And eventually, I started singing in Persian, singing his lyrics. And then eventually in 2016, I came to translating. And I would say translating is the most intimate way to engage with a poem, for sure.
Annmarie Kelly: I've never translated anything, but I'm fascinated by the fact that when your parents were, I'm going to say singing you Rumi lullabies or reciting these Rumi... Because these are love poems. When they were reciting to you, were they reciting in Iranian or were they reciting in English?
Haleh Liza Gafori: In Persian. Yeah. No, in Persian-
Annmarie Kelly: I'm sorry. In Persian of course. [inaudible 00:07:18]-
Haleh Liza Gafori: Yes, in the original text.
Annmarie Kelly: So what was it like to switch back and forth between the original and the English?
Haleh Liza Gafori: Well, translating poetry is challenging, and translating Rumi is very challenging in a way. It's also a lot of fun. It's also very inviting text. That's why so many people want to take it on. There are poems that are quite long, and then translators will take certain sections of them and choose sections, because they're not like sonnets in that they're not these longer 14 lines self-contained where everything is sort of attached. They're discreet units. So couplet sets can stand on their own. So it's not uncommon to hear different parts of poems from different translators, you know what I mean? So that's an interesting aspect of it. And so as a reader, as someone who can look at the Persian and look at the English, one can see, oh, we don't have these lines here, we're missing these lines, or wow, this is a great, well done translation here, or oh my God, what in the world was happening here? It's a mixture. It's a mixed bag. It's a mixture, but there's a lot of beautiful lines that have come across, that's for sure.
Annmarie Kelly: But Rumi lived in the year 1200, a 13th century Persian poet. For many of us in American schools, we learned Shakespeare is one of our oldest writers, and he died in 1616, so Rumi was hundreds of years before that. Can you tell people who aren't familiar with this guy why his words have stayed with us all this time?
Haleh Liza Gafori: Yeah. Well, he was very wise and very ecstatic. He reached a state of really a love that I think is a capital L love, the 360 embrace of creation love. He was very honest. He was aware of the struggles of... They're part of human existence. Navigating this life on earth is not easy, and he never denied that, and yet he strove for transformation. He believed that transformation is possible. He believed that... The book is called Gold because the Sufis and Rumi were in some ways alchemists. They were transforming mental states. They were transforming feeling states.
Haleh Liza Gafori: So the gold is the deepest love, the deepest generosity, the most expansive consciousness that we can touch, the ecstatic. It's not a material possession. What they were interested in was how are you feeling, and how are you seeing, what is the state of your perception today, and can you optimize it. When he says, your eyes are not a vultures beak. To tear the hole in two, see with the beloveds eyes, see one when your mind says two. So there was this movement moving beyond X versus Y, me versus you, us versus them, losing the obsession with winning, losing the obsession with hierarchy, all these kinds of things, very liberating.
Annmarie Kelly: So was it that about his story that found its route in you in 2016? What was it that called you to him and his work in 2016?
Haleh Liza Gafori: Yeah. Well, certainly I had been called to it before that. And I was singing it, so I was very interested in it, and interested in the philosophy. But then in 2016, I just happened to be reading a translation and I happened to look at the line and wonder, is that right? I wasn't really sure. And so I went back to the original text and I said, that's not how I would've translated it. So I took a shot at translating the poem, and I enjoyed it. And I said, let me do another one, and I'll do another one. And so it started out as curiosity and a hobby, and then I became passionate about it, and then eventually I had enough pages that one would call it a manuscript. So it sort of happened just by wondering about a line, a specific line.
Annmarie Kelly: I don't speak Farsi, but I suppose there are some gaps between Farsi and English, words that exist in one language that don't fully exist in another, so how did you tackle that in this project?
Haleh Liza Gafori: Yes. Yes. You have to find ways of working with that. For instance, one... I'll give you a small example, and then I'll give you a bigger example. The word oud, he says, [foreign language 00:12:39]. Oud means incense, and it also means an instrument. So then you have to decide as a translator, which one am I going to use, am I going to use both? So for instance, in that case, I decided that he was speaking of both. And so in this poem, he says, you brought my spirit to a boil, turned my grapes to wine, you lit a fire to the fragrant wood and body of song in me, watch the smoke rise. So that fragrant wood and body of song is all from one little word, oud. That's an example of one word, but if we take a word that's a conceptual word, a word like fana, which fana is an important word. It's an important word for us Americans too. I was born here. Fana is sometimes defined as self-annihilation, which sounds terrible, it sounds awful, that doesn't do it justice. That's not a good definition of it.
Haleh Liza Gafori: It's sometimes defined as ego death, which is a better definition of it. But really what fana is, it's a process of shedding the oppressive aspects of ego and dissolving that aspect of us in a shoreless and boundless love in compassion. So dissolving the cramped petty parts of the self, the greedy, circumspect, calculating parts of the self, dissolving that in compassion. It's a kind of death, because it's a death of the small self in a way. And so we don't have a word for that.
Annmarie Kelly: No, we do not.
Haleh Liza Gafori: But it's very interesting and important process.
Annmarie Kelly: That's a huge jump. There's a huge difference between self-annihilation and the transformative nature of the word that you jumped to.
Haleh Liza Gafori: This idea of burning the self down or drowning the self, this is a big thing in Sufi mysticism, and it's not punishing, it's not flatulating, it's compassion, it's love's fire, it's love's ocean. When he says, for instance, he says... The last two lines will speak to this, but it's a very short poem. He says, why paint night over nightless day? Every religion has love, but love has no religion. Love is an ocean, no borders, no shores. Drown there, and you won't lament it. The drowned have no regrets. So again, that drowning, losing yourself in this vast love, losing the circumspect, cagey, calculating aspect of the mind, the self-obsessed part of the self.
Annmarie Kelly: I wrote that poem down, and I didn't understand it until I heard you talk about fana, because I understood that every religion has love, but love has no religion, love is an ocean, no borders, no shores. That, I got. But then when I got to the drowning at the end, I was thinking, well, I don't know, I think you're drowning... But now to understand the letting go, and that is in the drowning, that you're not fighting against these currents, you're letting go of borders and boundaries and being transformed. It's actually really fascinating to hear you say that, because now I'm thinking about several lines that are going to be different for me now. I've never thought about translating this much. This is fascinating to me. I'm going to try to practice the first part of Sama today, which I understand to be deep listening, but I don't entirely understand the second part of Sama and what it has to do with Rumi, so will you help me with Sama?
Haleh Liza Gafori: Sure. Okay. So the deep listening was a very important practice for him. You got that, right? And he was listening at this point in time not to books being read aloud, which he did when he was a student, but now his friend Shams said, let's listen to music and poetry. And this deep listening process was very important to him as a meditative practice, as a way of unleashing his spirit really. Then on top of that, the second aspect of Sama was the whirling dance. And so this is a very rigorous practice in a way. I mean, it's easy to stand up, whirl around the left axis of your leg... And he would do it apparently for hours. Your right hand is facing the sky, your left hand is facing the ground, you're whirling around the left axis of your leg towards the heart in this kind of 360 degree embrace of creation, and you are really in a state of deep focus.
Haleh Liza Gafori: If you're not, you're going to get dizzy and fall. So this required such immense concentration. And in this concentration, again, fana. Because when we are immersed, when we are engaged, we lose ourselves, we lose our sensor, our self-concern, our self-obsession, and suddenly here he is, this whirling entity, and he says, Sama is the food of lovers. He says, the heaven's ladder reaches the seventh sky, Sama's ladder reaches far beyond it. So this idea that we transcend through this practice, and that's what he was experiencing, and he would write, he would spout poetry. He would spontaneously compose while he was whirling and the drum was playing. He was freestyling.
Annmarie Kelly: Yeah. So first off, that whirling, I think I just would be in deep nausea. There would be no creating, but-
Haleh Liza Gafori: Me too. It's quite difficult. Me too. I get nauseous.
Annmarie Kelly: I can think about connecting your body to sound, and that surely must be part of why Rumi's work has endured, that these are, at the most basic core, parts of ourself, our desire to sing and drink and love and laugh and drum, that this is timeless behavior.
Haleh Liza Gafori: Yes. Indeed It is. Absolutely, 100%. And I think about him as a child, they left their home and traveled actually across central Asia for 10 years, and he was sleeping under stars, they were walking through gardens that were so fragrant, there was music playing at night, there were stories being told, there was a lot of fresh air being inhaled and stories and music being inhaled. At the same time, the Mongols were marching across central Asia, and there were stories of terrible massacres and bloodshed. He was also hearing that. So he was aware of the wide range of human existence of life on earth, and he was aware that this Genghis character was an egomaniac, and he knew what that meant. And he knew the importance of burning away that destructive self-obsessed force that is more apparent in some than in others, but everyone can lose a little bit of it, I think.
Annmarie Kelly: Absolutely. I hadn't realized that they were contemporaries, that Genghis Khan and Rumi were alive at the same time. Sometimes these historical figures, we just learn as having been from back then, but don't always think about who overlaps, who was alive at the same time. That's like Martin Luther King and Anne Frank were young and children at the same time. Those seem from separate parts of history. Well, we're talking about Rumi, but I would love it if we could hear some of Rumi in your own words, if there's a poem or two that you want to read to us. I've heard you read just in online forums, and it's beautiful. So would you like to share something? They don't have titles, right? There's no sonnet number 144?
Haleh Liza Gafori: Yeah. Right. Exactly. His poems weren't titled. They weren't titled, so we stuck to that. In the table of contents, it's the first line. So this one is called, You Found Me Once Again, and this is an interesting poem. I want to read it just because I was thinking about it. I have to go to an event tonight, and they said, read something that is related to being called or being found, being lost and being found, and whether we're found by ourselves, or found by a loving friend, or found by the source as he is at the end of this poem. Anyway, let me just read it. And how sometimes we resist being found. That's very interesting. Okay. Here we go.
Haleh Liza Gafori: You found me once again, you thief of hearts. In drunken ecstasy, you searched the bizarre and found me. Even through sleepy-lidded love drunk eyes, you spotted me. I ran to the tavern. You found me. Why do I run when no one can escape you? Why hide when you found me 100 times? I thought I could lose you in a crowd of people, but you find me even in crowds of secrets, even behind my own masks. What a blessing to be sought and found by your eyes, what luck to be caught in your twists and turns, loving seer, persistent seer, towering cypress of countless gardens. I was pulling a thorn from my foot when you found me. You showered me with flowers from your fertile beds. Dear nightingale, your melodies opened my ears.
Haleh Liza Gafori: Like a ladle wanting its fill of light, I plunged into the moon's halo. At the bottom of that bottomless pot, you found me. Like a deer fleeing a lion, I ran through the desert. Deep in the mountains, you found me. Wounded, I shed my blood on every path. You followed the drops and found me. I was a hooked fish, riving in the waves, at the end of the line, you found me. You roam the skies and catch galloping deer with all that skill and patience, you found me. The moment you found me, you gave me a cup brimming with loves wine, heavy enough to match the weight on my soul. Every sip, lightened it, every sip, a balm. I drank till empty. My soul took flight. I have no mind, no ear, no tongue today. The source of thought and word found me.
Annmarie Kelly: Wow. First off, thank you for reading that. Second, I have all kinds of questions about... Well, first off, who's you? Who is you in these poems? Because I'm getting higher power, I'm getting romantic partner, I'm getting the muse. Who is you?
Haleh Liza Gafori: Yes. All of the above. All of the... And you is also me. So you is the I, and all those you's you just named. So what part of his own consciousness is finding him, and his beloved friend, Shams, his guide, his mentor, the one who kind of revolutionized his life, or was the catalyst for his revolution. Shams is the you. And the higher power, the source, the God is the you. Absolutely. And the muse is the you. I think all of above. I think you touched on it exactly right. It's all of the above.
Annmarie Kelly: I'm astonished by how much of that language is also so contemporary to what many of us hope from our romantic partnerships that we want someone to peel away our masks, we want someone to accept us despite of, or even because of our secrets, that what it means to be in a relationship is that, I'm not going to hide myself from you anymore, and I'm not going to hide myself from me anymore. The group of people who traveled with him, I felt like there was a call here. Some of the poems are like, you are not a seeker, come with us, our curiosity is contagious. Never played a melody. Come with us. Your voice will rise in song. There's a call here. I don't know where that party is, but I want to join it. I want to join Rumi and his merry band of followers. I want to love and dance and sing with them.
Haleh Liza Gafori: What he values. What he values, the camaraderie, curiosity, togetherness, music. Yeah.
Annmarie Kelly: There's that line, I stir up laughter even in those who fear joy. That might be my new mantra. I stir up laughter even in those who fear joy. We are afraid sometimes to just let go. I don't know why we're like that. Have you ever been to just a... It's been such a long time, but a party where everyone talks and no one says anything?
Haleh Liza Gafori: Oh God. Yeah, that happens. That happens-
Annmarie Kelly: Om my gosh. And we're just talking, but no one connects, no one actually sees, no one admits. You're just doing the polite banter, and you leave there feeling more empty than you were when you entered. I just get the feeling that Rumi cut through those layers. And the authenticity in these lines, I felt seen. I felt seen in these poems. And again, they're hundreds and hundreds of years old, but thank you for making this alive for so many of us.
Haleh Liza Gafori: It's a pleasure. And it almost brings tears to my eyes to hear you say that you felt seen in the poetry and you felt that, exactly what you said, that sense of the opening and how important that is to our lives. Rumi was longing for honest and intimate conversation when he met Shams, and his poems are honest and intimate conversations. When he says, who am I? Who is this I? He's not marching around like, I'm a saint, I'm the great one, I've got this all figured out. He has a whole poem where he says, I don't know. I don't know. I don't know. I don't know. I don't know. He's not afraid to say, I don't know. He's not afraid to just be, exist, speak honestly, speak of the difficulties, speak of the joys, and no shame around joy either. And this is an old thing, I think, let's say from the Abrahamic trio. There's a lot of shame in the Abrahamic religions, so to cut through that, to cut through shame around the ecstatic is an interesting process too.
Annmarie Kelly: I love this one close to the end. I was just thinking about how all of us should be so lucky to be remembered. And it says, if wheat sprouts from my grave, and if you bake bread from it, expect to get drunk. The baker and the dough will lose their minds. The oven will rattle off ecstatic verse. If you make a pilgrimage to my grave and stand on my burial mound, expect to dance. Don't visit my grave without a drum, my friend. A feast with God is no place for sadness. Oh my gosh, we should all be so lucky to have our lives remembered in this way, to celebrate that we were here, that we created and loved and inspired others to do the same.
Haleh Liza Gafori: Yes. And that you stand on our grave and dance, because the ecstasy is still emerging from us. And I'm crying. Of course your listeners can't tell, but I'm crying, because to hear someone read the lines that I've been working on and reading is so touching to me. It's just nice to hear it in someone's voice other than my own. That's a side note. But I tell you... And the idea of aging, and allowing aging to be a process of ecstasizing... Let's say that's a verb. To let aging be a liberating process.
Haleh Liza Gafori: That by the time we get to death, the wheat that sprouts from our grave is going to make you drunk. And every once in a while... Not often, but every once in a while, you see an older person who actually seems well and liberated and happy, because they get the thing, they understand the whole play here that we're in, this precious life. When he says, how many eons must pass before the treasures I find here appear again? Why ignore them now? The simplest things are treasures, and sometimes we see people who get that.
Annmarie Kelly: I always like it when I meet someone like that. I think Elizabeth Lesser is someone like that. But you just meet someone who, there's something about them that they have figured out some secrets, and they're sprinkling them from their pockets, and you're just happy to walk amongst the wildflowers that grow in their wake.
Annmarie Kelly: All right. So we've talked about Rumi, which is what you're known for, but who are some of your other writer crushes? Who's work do you love?
Haleh Liza Gafori: Actually, you know what's funny? I was so happy that you just asked me that, because right when you said wildflowers and someone [inaudible 00:33:19], I thought of Tom Petty, and I thought of the documentary I just watched of Tom Petty and when he was writing that song, Wildflowers. You belong among the wildflowers-
Annmarie Kelly: You belong among the wildflowers. Yeah.
Haleh Liza Gafori: That is such a beautiful song. And hey, I love Tom Petty. So there you go. That's one. Lucille Clifton is right here on my desk. Here she is.
Annmarie Kelly: So good.
Haleh Liza Gafori: I love her. I love her. I'm looking around my room. Well, oh, I put my books in [inaudible 00:33:52], but anyway. I love so many people. V, formerly known Eve Ensler-
Annmarie Kelly: Eve Ensler.
Haleh Liza Gafori: And her work throughout her life, so important. And she comes from such a space of deep awareness of the absolute appalling actions that take place on this earth, primarily against women's bodies and women in general. And still she is coming from a space of joy, coming from the ecstatic. She's calling us to the ecstatic. She's saying, this doesn't need to be. Why is there so much shaming? Why is there so much misogyny?
Annmarie Kelly: That's another podcast in itself right there.
Haleh Liza Gafori: It sure is. And it's very central to our salvation to ask that question.
Annmarie Kelly: Absolutely. I like this idea of Rumi believing that people could be transformed. That gives me hope that we can, all of us seek transformation, and there's room for us, there's hope for us. Well, I could talk to you all day, but they do not let me, so we always close with just some icebreakers, just some kind of quick questions. So these are just multiple choice. You could just pick one, okay?
Haleh Liza Gafori: All right.
Annmarie Kelly: All right. So coffee or tea?
Haleh Liza Gafori: It's coffee, but I'd like it to be tea.
Annmarie Kelly: Fair enough. Mountains or beach?
Haleh Liza Gafori: Mountains, rivers, lakes. That's my thing for sure.
Annmarie Kelly: Gotcha. Early bird or night out-
Haleh Liza Gafori: That, I have no doubt. Night owl and early bird, which is a problem.
Annmarie Kelly: Oh my goodness, when do you sleep?
Haleh Liza Gafori: No, no, no. Well, sometimes I nap. Hey, that's good. I like the naps.
Annmarie Kelly: Naps are good. Quiet or loud?
Haleh Liza Gafori: Quiet, even though I'm so loud. I like it when I'm quiet.
Annmarie Kelly: Isn't it funny? That happens sometimes. I'll be chatting with someone who's loud, and they always say, quiet. I'm like, interesting. People sometimes crave... Sure. Are you a risk taker, or are you the person who always knows where the bandaids are?
Haleh Liza Gafori: Oh gosh, I'm a risk taker.
Annmarie Kelly: And if you could time travel, would you rather go back or forward in time?
Haleh Liza Gafori: That's tough. I mean, part of me says forward to just see what happens, but to be back in time when the earth was not touched by the industrial revolution yet, and not polluted by fossil fuels, that would be magical to be able to see the ocean filled with fish and... So in a way, it's back in time, is sort of more appealing, but of course I want to see what we end up doing to this place.
Annmarie Kelly: What is something quirky that people don't know about you, likes, loves, pet peeves?
Haleh Liza Gafori: Quirky. I had OCD.
Annmarie Kelly: Really?
Haleh Liza Gafori: Yeah. I had a terrible case of OCD as a child and adolescent.
Annmarie Kelly: What was that like?
Haleh Liza Gafori: Talk about stone. I had a lot of melting to do.
Annmarie Kelly: Yeah. Yeah. I'm glad you melted.
Haleh Liza Gafori: Yeah. It was a process. It was a process. But yeah, OCD is a very intense anxiety disorder, and so I did go through that. And I think my life is one of those lives where I've gotten lighter over time and happier over time, so that's good news.
Annmarie Kelly: That is. I'm glad. I'm glad to hear that.
Haleh Liza Gafori: Yeah. Thank you. So transformation is real.
Annmarie Kelly: Excellent. What do you love about where you live?
Haleh Liza Gafori: Brooklyn is great. I live near Prospect Park. I love going to the park and walking there, and I love the music and the nightly events around here.
Annmarie Kelly: It's nice to see them coming back. It was a long time in the wilderness. What's one of your go-to songs, the song you love?
Haleh Liza Gafori: Oh gosh. Well, I'll tell you this, I just discovered two days ago a woman named Krystle Warren, K-R-Y-S-T-L-E, and her last name is W-A-R-R-E-N. Someone had mentioned her. Joan As Police Woman. Actually, I'll mention her too. I don't know if you've ever heard of Joan As Police Woman. She has a song where she's like, I'm looking for the magic, I'm feeling for the right way out of my mind, and I love that. I'm looking for the magic, feeling for the right way out of my mind, which that sums up what it's like to get out of OCD.
Annmarie Kelly: Looking for the magic and the right way out of your mind.
Haleh Liza Gafori: Yeah. And so she has that song, Joan As Police Woman. I think that song is called The Magic. I like that song. But she suggested Krystle Warren, and I listened to her yesterday and this morning on Spotify, and she's wonderful.
Annmarie Kelly: I will link to those for our show notes. Thank you. Do you have a favorite book or movie, or both?
Haleh Liza Gafori: I loved Diary of a Madman when I was a... I'll just say when I was a kid, because we've been talking about my childhood. Diary of a Madman by Gogol, a Russian writer. And also at that time, I read The Bald Soprano by Eugene Ionesco. And these two books were so interesting, because theater of the absurd gives you a bird's eye view and makes you laugh at the whole big thing, and then Gogol, Diary of Madman brings a tenderness in. So it was a good combination. And it was still when I was struggling with my own stuff, but those books really remain in my memory as important books.
Annmarie Kelly: I do not think of Gogol as a children's book, but I'm going to make all my kids read the overcoat now. That's excellent. Do you have a favorite ice cream?
Haleh Liza Gafori: Mint chocolate chip, of course.
Annmarie Kelly: Right. Absolutely.
Haleh Liza Gafori: I mean, it's just a no brainer. The easiest question you asked by far.
Annmarie Kelly: And lastly, if we were to take a picture of you happy, doing something you love, what would we see you doing?
Haleh Liza Gafori: Hiking.
Annmarie Kelly: Yay. Is it hard to hike living in New York city?
Haleh Liza Gafori: Sort of. There is places. No, upstate. Hey, it's not that hard-
Annmarie Kelly: Not the Hudson?
Haleh Liza Gafori: Yeah. Two and a half, two hours, one and a half hours, you could get good hiking. It's not that hard actually. You just got to get in the car. You have to move through the traffic. That's what's hard.
Annmarie Kelly: Indeed. Indeed. Well, Haleh Liza Gafori, thank you for coming on this show today. Thank you for reminding us to seek love and magic and ecstasy. Thank you for unleashing the fire in Rumi's words. And there's that line where we're asked to remember who we are, and that's what we're going to become, I'm thinking so much about that, that we all just need to remember who we are, and that's what we can become.
Haleh Liza Gafori: Yes. Yes. Divine.
Annmarie Kelly: Divine. Exactly. Divine. Thank you. Folks, our guest today has been Haleh Liza Gafori, singer, poet, teacher translator, magical person out there. Her recent book is called Gold. It is Rumi's poetry in... It's effervescent. Not tap water, but it's effervescence. And we will link to this on the show notes page. You really can't go wrong with this beautiful, beautiful book. To everyone listening, we're wishing you love and light. Wherever this day takes you, be good to yourself, be good to one another, and we will see you again soon on this wild and precious journey.
Haleh Liza Gafori: Beautiful.
Annmarie Kelly: Wild Precious Life is a production of Evergreen Podcasts. Special thanks to executive producers, Gerardo Orlando and Michael DeLoya, producer, Sarah Willgrube, and audio engineer, Ian Douglas. Be sure to subscribe and follow us on Apple Podcasts or wherever you get your podcasts.