Saturday, January 1, 2011

Rumi & Barks Celebration

"Come, come, whoever you are,
Wanderer, worshiper, lover of leaving.
It doesn't matter.
Ours is not a caravan of despair.
Come, even if you have broken your vows
a thousand times.
Come, yet again, come, come."
-- Inscription on Rumi's shrine in Konya, Turkey (translation: Coleman Barks)

“If Rumi is the most read poet in America today, Coleman Barks is in good part responsible. His ear for the truly divine madness in Rumi’s poetry is truly remarkable.”
-- Huston Smith, author, The World’s Religions

Jalal ad-Din Rumi is the 13th-century Persian muslim poet and Sufi mystic, known as the Poet of Love. He was born on September 30, 1207, in the village of Wakhsh in what is now Tajikistan and died on December 17, 1273.

I don't know whom I love more Rumi or Coleman Barks. Rumi's words plus Coleman's spirit and voice make an irresistible whole worth celebrating. Barks gave the world the gift of Rumi. Were it not for his poetic translations and his resonant voice, we might never have come to revere Rumi as we do, making him the best-selling poet in our world today.

There is a mystical connection between Rumi and Coleman Barks, a connection that translates the passion and poetry of a 13th century Persian into the language of a 21st century seeker. Compare the earlier, probably more literal translation, with Barks' version above:
Whoever you may be, come
Even though you may be
An infidel, a pagan, or a fire-worshipper, come
Our brotherhood is not one of despair
Even though you have broken
Your vows of repentance a hundred times, come.
(translator unknown)
Barks' version is passionate and poetic, as if Rumi were alive in the room drumming his words directly into our hearts.

There is a destiny fulfilled in the coming together of Rumi born in 1207 in Persia and Barks born in 1937 in Tennessee. Seven hundred years and a world apart and yet they weave a tapestry of love and yearning that draws us in and makes us a part of their song. I first heard Barks at a conference years ago talking about his journey to Sufism and Rumi. His words landed in a pool somewhere inside my being and now bubble up and over like spring snow melt bounding down the hills. There is a jubilation in this union of words and voice. Barks often chuckles as if Rumi is speaking directly in his ear. Sometimes his voice deepens with an ache that goes beyond the words.

For the next 30 days, I invite you to celebrate the gift of Rumi and Coleman Barks. Sometimes I find that these words don't linger in my rational brain but go straight to a place that doesn't comprehend their meaning yet vibrates with a type of understanding nonetheless. Rumi might say, "Out beyond ideas of wrongdoing and rightdoing there is a field. I'll meet you there." Rumi and Barks create that field where we meet beyond ideas, beyond thought, in a pure encounter of the divine.

Please share your favorite Rumi quotes or thoughts on these poems and also feel free to pass these posts of celebration along to others. Most of all, I hope you enjoy starting this remarkable year with these two incredible poets.


  1. Great post, Joyce. And what a wonderful idea to celebrate Rumi and Barks over the next 30 days.

    There's a post on Rumi at OnBeing blog today.

  2. Here's the link to the OnBeing post:

  3. Thank you Joyce and Happy New Year to you
    Your writing is exquisite, what a lovely treat for me this morning. I love you dearly

  4. I looked at this course and thought.... ooohhhh how I love Rumi how I'd love to take this course.... but.... I'm taking two courses right now and adding a third will not create that which I seek -- balance.

    So I am grateful to find Rumi here and to be able to follow along through your posts.

    thanks my friend. and I sent you an email about my collaging/vision mapping today! Thanks for the inspiration.



  5. Here's an interview with Coleman when he talks about his 'Shams', a Sufi sage from Sri Lanka named Bawa Muhaiyaddeen. Bawa inspired him to bring Rumi's message to the West. Fascinating!