Photo Credit: Brian Silak

Richard Newman

Current City, State, Country

Queens, New York, USA

Birth Year

b. 1962

Birth City, State, Country

Queens, New York, USA

Biography

Richard Jeffrey Newman is the author of three books of poetry, T’shuvah (Fernwood Press, 2023), Words For What Those Men Have Done (Guernica Editions, 2017), and The Silence Of Men (CavanKerry Press, 2006), as well as a chapbook, For My Son, A Kind of Prayer, (Ghostbird Press, 2016). He has also published three books of translations from classical Persian poetry, Selections from Saadi’s Gulistan and Selections from Saadi’s Bustan (both out of print, Global Scholarly Publications, 2004 and 2006 respectively), and The Teller of Tales: Stories From Ferdowsi’s Shahnameh (Junction Press, 2011). Newman has been curating the First Tuesdays reading series, which highlights Queens, New York writers, since 2012; and he sat on the Board of Directors of Newtown Literary, a Queens-based literary non-profit with the same mission. He is Professor of English and Creative Writing at Nassau Community College, where he served his faculty union in a number of positions for over a decade, including as Secretary and Vice President for Classroom Faculty.

Newman’s three full-length collections form a trilogy exploring the impact on his life, personally and politically, of surviving what the men who sexually violated him did to him when he was a boy. While the first two books focus on how that impact has shaped the way he lays claim to his physical presence in the world, T’shuvah turns the focus on Newman’s interior experience, using as a framework a secularized version of t’shuvah as a reparative process, a way of making the self whole. This volume asks what it means “to return” from the alienation imposed by the trauma of sexual violence—with the caveat, of course, that a survivor of sexual violence bears neither responsibility nor accountability for the violation itself. Newman also explored this question, though without the explicit Jewish reference, in both an essay called “The First Time I Told Someone” and a talk he gave in 2018—the first one by a male survivor—during his campus’ Sexual Assault and Harassment Awareness Week.

The translations Newman has published emerged from a commission he received in the early 2000s from the now-defunct International Society for Iranian Culture (ISIC). Headed by Mr. Mehdi Faridzadeh, a former cultural ambassador to the United Nations from Iran, ISIC’s mission was to counter the axis-of-evil/war-of-civilizations rhetoric that dominated public discourse in the United States about Iran and Islam after the September 11th attacks. The organization’s hope was that translations of classical works produced by a native English speaking poet would help readers in the United States see Iran’s history and culture through a more accurate lens. Because he is not literate in Persian, however, Newman prefers to call himself a co-translator. While the versions he has published are ultimately his work, they are based not on the original texts, but rather on prior translations—accurate, but woefully out-of-date, cumbersomely scholarly, and/or out-of-print—that ISIC gave him to use as trots. A hallmark of Newman’s work in this area, which distinguishes him from many other non-Persian-speaking translators of this literature, is his insistence on placing his versions in conversation with the history of the original work’s reception in English, as well as on as accurate an understanding as possible of the original author’s milieu and their cultural and religious identity.

Published Works

Poetry
T’shuvah (Fernwood Press, 2023)
Words for What Those Men Have Done (Guernica Editions, 2017)
For My Son, A Kind of Prayer (chapbook; Ghostbird Press, 2016)
The Silence of Men (CavanKerry Press, 2006)

Translations
The Teller of Tales: Stories from Ferdowsi’s Shahnameh (Junction Press, 2011)
Selections from Saadi’s Bustan (Global Scholarly Publications, 2006)
Selections from Saadi’s Gulistan (Global Scholarly Publications, 2004)

Author Site

Links to Sample Works

Video Reading

Current Title

Professor of English and Creative Writing, Nassau Community College

Education

Stony Brook University, B.A., English and Linguistics
Stony Brook University, M.A., Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages

Languages of Publication(s) and Poets Translated

Classical Persian: Saadi, Ferdowsi, Attar

Subject Matter

Genre