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The Essential Rumi

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This revised and expanded edition of The Essential Rumi includes a new introduction by Coleman Barks and more than 80 never-before-published poems.

Through his lyrical translations, Coleman Barks has been instrumental in bringing this exquisite literature to a remarkably wide range of readers, making the ecstatic, spiritual poetry of thirteenth-century Sufi Mystic Rumi more popular than ever.

The Essential Rumi continues to be the bestselling of all Rumi books, and the definitive selection of his beautiful, mystical poetry.

416 pages, Paperback

First published January 1, 1273

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About the author


907 books14.2k followers
Jalāl ad-Dīn Muhammad Rūmī - also known as Jalāl ad-Dīn Muhammad Balkhī, Mevlânâ/Mawlānā (مولانا, "our master"), Mevlevî/Mawlawī (مولوی, "my master") and more popularly simply as Rumi - was a 13th-century Persian poet, jurist, Islamic scholar, theologian and Sufi mystic who lived in Konya, a city of Ottoman Empire (Today's Turkey). His poems have been widely translated into many of the world's languages, and he has been described as the most popular poet and the best-selling poet in the United States.

His poetry has influenced Persian literature, but also Turkish, Ottoman Turkish, Azerbaijani, Punjabi, Hindi, and Urdu, as well as the literature of some other Turkic, Iranian, and Indo-Aryan languages including Chagatai, Pashto, and Bengali.

Due to quarrels between different dynasties in Khorāṣān, opposition to the Khwarizmid Shahs who were considered devious by his father, Bahā ud-Dīn Wālad or fear of the impending Mongol cataclysm, his father decided to migrate westwards, eventually settling in the Anatolian city Konya, where he lived most of his life, composed one of the crowning glories of Persian literature, and profoundly affected the culture of the area.

When his father died, Rumi, aged 25, inherited his position as the head of an Islamic school. One of Baha' ud-Din's students, Sayyed Burhan ud-Din Muhaqqiq Termazi, continued to train Rumi in the Shariah as well as the Tariqa, especially that of Rumi's father. For nine years, Rumi practised Sufism as a disciple of Burhan ud-Din until the latter died in 1240 or 1241. Rumi's public life then began: he became an Islamic Jurist, issuing fatwas and giving sermons in the mosques of Konya. He also served as a Molvi (Islamic teacher) and taught his adherents in the madrassa. During this period, Rumi also travelled to Damascus and is said to have spent four years there.

It was his meeting with the dervish Shams-e Tabrizi on 15 November 1244 that completely changed his life. From an accomplished teacher and jurist, Rumi was transformed into an ascetic.

On the night of 5 December 1248, as Rumi and Shams were talking, Shams was called to the back door. He went out, never to be seen again. Rumi's love for, and his bereavement at the death of, Shams found their expression in an outpouring of lyric poems, Divan-e Shams-e Tabrizi. He himself went out searching for Shams and journeyed again to Damascus.

Rumi found another companion in Salaḥ ud-Din-e Zarkub, a goldsmith. After Salah ud-Din's death, Rumi's scribe and favourite student, Hussam-e Chalabi, assumed the role of Rumi's companion. Hussam implored Rumi to write more. Rumi spent the next 12 years of his life in Anatolia dictating the six volumes of this masterwork, the Masnavi, to Hussam.

In December 1273, Rumi fell ill and died on the 17th of December in Konya.

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Displaying 1 - 30 of 1,295 reviews
Profile Image for Erin Carere.
29 reviews33 followers
August 28, 2007
I keep a copy of the Essential Rumi (trans. Coleman Barks) with me, everywhere I go. My copy, given to me in 2001, has travelled the world with me. I read a poem a day, although sometimes it's a poem every other day. I discovered Rumi through a great book given to me by my mother: The Language of Life, a Companion Book to the Bill Moyers' PBS special about poets alive today... Coleman Barks, a premiere Rumi translator, was among the poets interviewed..... I first fell in love with this quattrain:

The minute I heard my first love story
I started looking for you, not knowing how blind that was.

Lovers don't finally meet somewhere.
They're in each other all along.

That's because I'm romantic, see, and at first, I mistook the meaning- or discovered one of many meanings. Later, when I found many soul mates, knowing that we are all connected, I found a deeper meaning... and NOW, looking for a different soul connection, I seek an even deeper meaning.

Because then there is this other bit that I love:

I, you, he, she, we.
In the garden of mystic lovers,
these are not true distinctions.

The book I carry around with me was given to me by a former creative partner.

Now, filtered through time and memory and point of view, when looking back at what I formerly considered a difficult life (okay, twenty of the years were tough, not the beginning and not my once and future now)... I see pain and ecsasty, and mostly love. And that's the very beginning of how I feel about Rumi, that's the very beginning of what he has done for me. Because the soul has been so afflicted so that it might become strong, and I am thankful for each moment.

p.s. if you anagram the letters of my last name, it spells Rumi.
Profile Image for Ahmad Sharabiani.
9,566 reviews56k followers
March 7, 2022
The Essential Rumi, Rumi, Coleman Barks (Translator), Reynold Nicholson (Translator), A.J. Arberry (Translator), John Moyne (Translator)

This revised and expanded edition of The Essential Rumi includes a new introduction by Coleman Barks and more than 80 never-before-published poems. Through his lyrical translations, Coleman Barks has been instrumental in bringing this exquisite literature to a remarkably wide range of readers, making the ecstatic, spiritual poetry of thirteenth-century Sufi Mystic Rumi more popular than ever.

The Essential Rumi continues to be the bestselling of all Rumi books, and the definitive selection of his beautiful, mystical poetry.

‏‫‭The essential Rumi, By Mowlavi‪, Jalaloddin Mohammad ibn-e Mohammad, 1207-1273, Translated by Coleman Barks‏‫‭‭; ‫‭with Reynold Nicholson, A.J. Arberry, John Moyne. ‏‫‭New York 2004, 409 Pages.

An eye is meant to see things.
The soul is here for its own joy.

A head has one use: For loving a true love.
Feet: To chase after.

Love is for vanishing into the sky. The mind,
for learning what men have done and tried to do.

Mysteries are not to be solved: The eye goes blind
when it only wants to see why.

A lover is always accused of something.
But when he finds his love, whatever was lost
in the looking comes back completely changed.

تاریخ خوانش: روز بیست و پنجم ماه ژوئن سال2012میلادی

عنوان: ضرورت رومی؛ شاعر: جلال الدین رومی؛ موضوع: شعر شاعران ایران - سده سیزده میلادی ترجمه شده به انگلیسی توسط نویسندگان ایالات متحده آمریکا - سده20م

نسخه ای به روز شده از «اشعار ضروری مولانا»، دارای پیش نگاره ای از «کولمن بارکس»، و بیش از هشتاد شعر منتشر نشده از «مولانا» است، «کولمن بارکس» با ترجمه ی موزون و ماهرانه ی خویش، مهارت ادبی بینهمانندش را به گستره ی وسیعی از خوانشگران نشان میدهند، و اشعار روحانی شاعر صوفی مسلک، «مولانا» را به خوانشگران هدیه میکنند؛ «اشعار ضروری مولانا» از پرفروشترین کتابها بوده، و مجموعه ای جادویی از شعرهای «مولانا» را کنار هم چیده است

تاریخ بهنگام رسانی 16/03/1400هجری خورشیدی؛ 15/12/1400هجری خورشیدی؛ ا. شربیانی
Profile Image for Dolors.
524 reviews2,180 followers
July 21, 2020
It’s incredibly challenging to define Rumi’s verses. His famous lyric ghazals, similar to sonnets in length and impact, go beyond poetry or any other artistic expression. They raise up to an unusual blend of undiluted spirituality, mystical philosophy and scholarly theology.

Widely translated and internationally acclaimed, Rumi’s work transcends the barriers of language, culture and even religion. Love is the indisputable protagonist in Rumi’s lyrical meditations, a kind of love that is all-embracing and doesn’t limit itself with categorizations. Rumi loves limitlessly and he loves without ego, he loves everything and everyone at once: nature, people, his ancestors, his mentor and God. And so divine love and personal poems of aching human love fuse effortlessly and his verses become a unique chant to the sacred unity between body and soul, a mystical union with love itself.

Reading Rumi is a formidable experience. His effusive verses inebriated me, such abundance of feeling made my head spin, my heart race. His passion and abundance can even be overwhelming as there is so much wisdom and intensity in Rumi’s stanzas that it’s sometimes challenging to absorb the depth of their meaning.
Rumi is dizzyingly creative, but at the same time he repeats himself, and certain imagery such as stars, moons, nightingales and roses are ever-present in his extensive oeuvre, and so reading his verses in a row might assimilate to a trance experience.

Amidst such an exuberance of lyrical mystery and universal love, what I will most remember of this collection is Rumi’s humble exaltation of the present moment and his capacity to find something to love, something divine in every particle of the universe, even in silences, which express what can’t be articulated in words.

“Rip this poem apart like an old piece of cloth
To set meaning free from words, wind, and air.”

Copy provided by NetGalley in exchange for an honest review
Profile Image for Isabella.
558 reviews12.7k followers
May 25, 2022
actual rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️.5 stars

definitely a rollercoaster of a reading experience. there were some poems that rewired my whole brain chemistry but there were others that i found no connection to; both experiences valid and true.

listen to presences inside poems,
let them take you where they will
Profile Image for Monty Python.
20 reviews7 followers
October 15, 2009
I was more than a little irritated at this book: I don't want Coleman Barks' interpretations of Rumi, I want Rumi's words. Barks doesn't understand Persian and didn't translate any of Rumi's work, but he takes existing translations of Rumi and reworks them. What Barks is doing is akin to a DJ mixing someone else's remix into their own DJ set, and then trying to pass that off as the original material. If you're going to practice that form of collage, don't market it as anything else; let the collage stand as its own work. The fact that Barks is an acolyte of Robert "strip all subtlety and sensuality from erotic works and make them blatant and hypersexed" Bly doesn't help matters either.
Profile Image for saïd.
5,873 reviews549 followers
March 4, 2023
Coleman Barks did not speak or read a single word of Farsi when he decided to “translate” Rumi. Others have compared this to translating Shakespeare while not knowing English, Dostoyevsky while not knowing Russian, or Hugo while not knowing French; I agree with all of the above. His “translations” are really more like paraphrases or interpretations if not flat-out guesses based on previous English translations of Rumi (Moyne, Nicholson, etc.). Barks also skipped entire lines, combined others, and blended multiple poems into one “translation.” Majid Naficy explained the issue by saying that the “essential problem of Coleman Barks lies in the fact that in his version he intentionally changes Rumi.”

As an example, here is a poem “translated” by Barks, perhaps one of the most famous in the Western world:
Out beyond ideas
of wrongdoing and rightdoing,
there is a field.
I’ll meet you there.
But that is simply not what Rumi wrote. The original makes no mention of wrong or right; instead, the words used are iman (“religion”) and kufr (“lack of belief”). What Rumi is saying here is that, to paraphrase another scholar, the basis of faith lies not in religiosity but in an elevated space of compassion and love. Even a less-than-literal translation (although I personally think any interpretation of the poem should explicitly say ‘iman’ and ‘kufr’)—‘beyond ideas / of belief and disbelief’—would be more accurate to Rumi’s original writing than Barks’s flaccid nonsense.

A more literal translation of the poem (c/o Persian Poetics) would be:
Beyond kufr and Islam there is a desert plain,
in that middle space our passions reign.
When the gnostic arrives there he’ll prostrate himself,
not kufr, not Islam, nor is there any space in that domain.
This is insulting. It borders on outright Orientalism and Anglocentric cultural supremacy. Translation is not only an art but also a science, and highly political. The job of a translator is to present the work as it was in the original language, as close as is possible to the original text while being comprehensible to the audience in the target language; it’s up to that audience to interpret and judge as desired. Although it is true that all translation will inherently alter the original text to some extent, as is the nature of translation itself, there are degrees of accuracy to translation, just as there are to any type of scholarly interpretation. If the translator (or “translator”) does not even try to preserve an author’s work in such a way that it would be recognisable as the same text, the translator has failed. What Barks has done is not the same as translating Rumi’s poetry. Interpretation is not translation. This is not a translation of Rumi. You cannot have the “essential” Rumi without the religion.

Rozina Ali wrote that “the Rumi that people love is very beautiful in English, and the price you pay is to cut the culture and religion.” Removing the Islam from Rumi is akin to removing the Christianity from Narnia. It’s not merely inaccurate but also incredibly offensive. Barks has no scholarly background in Islam, Sufism, Persian history, or anything at all besides a degree in literature. He was given an honourary degree from Tehran University, but that’s it. All the “work” he’s done “bringing” Rumi to the Western world is for naught when it’s not actually Rumi he’s brought.

Two English versions of Rumi that are actual translations from the original language are Rumi: Hidden Music (translated by Maryam Mafi) and Words of Paradise: Selected Poems (translated by Raficq Abdulla). Both of these would be more accurate than Barks’s whitewashed attempt, although that bar is low. I would also recommend Jawid Mojaddedi’s excellent translation.
Profile Image for Mads.
107 reviews14 followers
June 23, 2007
Miraculous. I learn something new every time I open this book. The image that sticks to mind if how we should try to emulate a reed flute and let God's breath flow through us. I've stopped being religious when I stopped going to church when I was 16 but reading Rumi's writings is probably the closest I am to religion right now.
Profile Image for claire.
57 reviews1 follower
January 8, 2009
This is always by my bed--when I haven't returned it to the library again--because it gracefully and fiercely reminds me of what it means to be alive, to long for truth and love, to open my heart again and again even when the wind is blowing wickedly all around me.
Profile Image for Yelda Basar Moers.
182 reviews140 followers
February 9, 2017
A phenomenal read! This book of poetry by the gifted Coleman Barks has become one of my bibles of spirituality-- it is what I would call a one in a million read! I've added it to Thoreau's Walden and the holy books. The artistry and tapestry of language is unparalleled. The words of Rumi come alive under the care of Barks. It is impossible not to be moved by Rumi's words in this compilation.

If the universe could speak, this is what it would say.

Highly recommended!
Profile Image for Rikke.
615 reviews650 followers
October 2, 2013
This place is a dream.
Only a sleeper considers it real.

This is a hard book for me to rate. It almost seems impossible, unbearable to only reward it with three stars. Parts of it gently touched my soul, and reading those few lines of pure beauty, almost felt revolutionary. Rumi is mostly known for his love poems, and I can clearly see why. There's a certain hint of unision and belonging in his great visions of love and he strings his words together in such a delicate serenity. I fell in love with his idea of love.

However there were uninteresting parts as well and I skipped a few long poems along the way. Some of it felt too religious, too spiritual for my simple want of beautiful words. Some of Rumi's metaphors felt weak and insufficient, some of his musings were too repetitive.

Good parts and bad parts. The three stars both resemble divine inspiration and repetitive boredom. That is why I am so ambivalent about it.

Birds make great sky-circles
of their freedom.
How do they learn it?

They fall, and falling,
they're given wings.
Profile Image for Darwin8u.
1,559 reviews8,671 followers
June 18, 2020
"A gnostic says little, but inside he is full of mysteries."
- Rumi


God I love Rumi. Obviously, I'm not the only one. But beyond just poetry, I have always loved the mystical side of the major religions. Sufism, Zen, the Kabbalists, and gnostic anything. I think there is a truth that floats in the dance and patter of thy mystics that the dogmatic and the bureaucratic impulses of religion miss. Still, it isn't just Rumi's take on God (although I could make an argument that ALL his poems thread back to God), but his take on friendship, love, sex, wine, nature, etc., that all stand out. Rumi feels like a silk strand that connects the earth to the divine. It twists and flutters, but never breaks. His words just dance and remind us that the divine exists and the divine is closer than we imagine.

I read this book right as the Coronavirus hit, but previous to this recent apocalypse, I took my wife and kids to Istanbul and one of the highlights was watching the dervishes in Galata twirl as the poetry of Rumi was chanted in a small, beautiful space, men spinning to God while the world seemed ready to veer into chaos.

* I should also note that I went back and forth on whether to give this translation 4 or 5 stars. It is very approachable, but it also seems (again, I'm not a translator so I'm relying on those who know and comparing poems to other translations) to have muted a bit of the Islamic nature of the poetry. At once, he makes the poems more approachable, but also misses some of the point. So, Rumi I give 5 stars, but the translation drops it to 4 stars. At least on this spin.
Profile Image for B. P. Rinehart.
747 reviews255 followers
August 30, 2016
"I am filled with you.
Skin, blood, bone, brain, and soul.
There's no room for lack of trust, or trust.
Nothing in this existence but that existence.

I have deliberately taken over 6 years to read this book. I wanted to savor it like fine wine. This book is an anthology of the theologian, jurist and mystic known as "The Roman" despite being born in Afghanistan and writing mostly in Persian (though he did live in the former Eastern Roman Empire for much of his life). This book is controversially translated by Coleman Barks who opted for a poetic translation instead of a literal one. This often comes up when translating poetry. I remember seeing this same controversy over english translations of The Divine Comedy. With Dante, I elected for a poetic translation and I do so here. Even with Barks' filter, the thesis is still Rumi's. I will not waste too much time feebly trying to describe this book, but I feel obligated to say a few words. This book displays the heights of Sufism in the Middle Ages and the descriptions of sensual, erotic, neo-platonic, and divine love in this collection is staggering. Rumi is not some ancient hippie poet, but he keeps his faith and his interpretaiton of it as the key to fully understanding his poetry. I offer here, for instance, my favorite of the bunch, "The Question":
"One Dervish to another, What was your vision of God's presence?
I haven't seen anything.
But for the sake of conversation, I'll tell you a story.

God's presence is there in front of me, a fire on the left,
a lovely stream on the right.
One group walks towards the fire, into the fire, another toward the sweet flowing water.
No one knows which are blessed and which not.
Whoever walks into the fire appears suddenly in the stream.
A head goes under on the water surface, that head pokes out of the fire.
Most people guard against going into the fire,
and so end up in it.
Those who love the water of pleasure and make it their devotion are cheated with this reversal.
The trickery goes further.
The voice of the fire tells the truth saying, I am not fire.
I am fountainhed. Come into me and don't mind the sparks.

If you are a friend of God, fire is your water.
You should wish to have a hundred thousand sets of mothwings, so you could burn them away, one set a night.
The moth sees light and goes into the fire.
You should see fire and go toward the light.
Fire is what of God is world-consuming.
Water, world-protecting.
Somehow each gives the appearance of the other. To these eyes you have now, what looks like water burns.
What looks like fire is a great relief to be inside.
You've seen a magician make a bowl of rice seem a dish full of tiny live worms.
Before an assembly with one breath he made a floor swarm with scorpions that weren't there.
How much more amazing God's tricks.
Generation after generation lies down defeated, they think, but they're like a woman underneath a man,
circling him.
One molecule-mote-second thinking of God's reversal
of comfort and pain is better than attending any ritual.
That splinter of intelligence is substance.

The fire and water themselves:
Accidental, done with mirrors.
This is a small sample of the package that you get with Jalāl ad-Dīn Muhammad. Though he spent his life mostly as an Islamic jurist and theologian (positions he inherited from his father), it was not until he met a traveling mystic named Shams of Tabriz that his transformation into Sufi devotee and master happened. When Shams was killed by Rumi's jealous students, his career as poet and dervish began and it has been his claim to fame for over 700 years. For Rumi Shams did not die, but became whole. Rumi would spend the rest of his life trying to become whole as well.

An Egypt That Doesn't Exist:

"I want to say words that flame
as I say them, but I keep quiet
and don't try to make both worlds
fit in one mouthful.

I keep secret in myself
an Egypt that does not exist.
Is that good or bad? I don't know.

For years I gave away sexual love
with my eyes. Now I don't.

I am not in any one place.
I do not have a name for what I give away.

Whatever Shams gave,
that you can have from me.
Profile Image for 7jane.
676 reviews249 followers
February 26, 2022
3.5 stars.
Here is a selection of poems from a 13th century Persian (from Aghanistan part of it) poet, who was also a philosopher, mystic, scholar, and founder of the order of the Whirling Dervishes. His poems here are really rich in imagery and theme variety, though in my opinion sometimes you have to be a bit into Sufism and the Dervishes to enjoy some of it, and certain teaching poem stories can have jarring imagery for some readers.

Look as long as you can at the friend you love,
no matter whether that friend is moving away from you
or coming back toward you.

Here things are put in 27 theme divisions, each with their own introduction. At the end are notes, on translations, and a few recipes (of various amounts; all vegan). There are some divisions that are dedicated just to stories-within-a-poem, but other divisions also have some; some stories can be quite rough in themes. I don't always agree with the poet's opinions, but I can appreciate his writing style. His faith shows through the poems, but without being pushy (well, mostly).

A mountain keeps an echo deep inside itself.
That's how I hold your voice.

Themes and imagery can be: drinking, moods, silence, longing, emptiness, God, people like Solomon, Sheba, Jesus, and Mohammed, spring, camels and other animals, music, nature, knowledge, friendship (Rumi's friendship with Shams was intense), desire (good and bad), lovers, dancing, inner self-improvement, art, gardens, taking a ride, community of like minds.

Don't grieve for what doesn't come.
Some things that don't happen
keep disasters from happening.

So the rating here is mainly because I couldn't always relate - but there was enough good, interesting, beautiful words, poems, imagery to make reading all of it worth it. Reading just selected - or the essential - is quite enough to get to know enough good, and this collection gives some view into one corner of Islam, in certain point of time, too.
Profile Image for Astha Vyas.
76 reviews33 followers
April 27, 2017
When you read Rumi, a sudden mystical fog wraps you and teleports you to places unknown; places where you long to go. This book gives you the most basic ideas of life with subtle hints and hard hitting thoughts. You might disagree with Rumi on certain points, but never you 'll discard his teachings all together; as his expression is so beautiful that it is impossible not to admire. Indeed, it is "The Essential Rumi".
Profile Image for Kurt.
82 reviews9 followers
December 15, 2022
This is a book I return to again and again. I play a game with this book...I will concentrate on a problem or a situation, then open the book randomly to a page and start reading; something in the poem that I selected will have some relevance to the thought at hand. Of course, it has to do with my interpretation of the situation, but it always lends itself to deeper thought, or it will allow me to be able to gain some fresh insight into the problem. Basically, Rumi I Ching. The translations of these poems is fairly astounding, because I think that they are done in a way that is not at all literal, but somehow maintains the essence of the beauty of Rumi's devotion and longing. It makes me wish I could read these in their original language. So, in short, it is a personal book for me. I don't consider myself a religious person, but I can relate to a key metaphor in Sufism, that of the Ney (reed flute) used in playing Dervish devotional music; the reed used to make the Ney is cut from the bed, so the music played through it, with the breath, incidentally, is music of the reed longing to return to its origin. So it is with the musician who plays. His soul also longs to return to its origin.
These are devotional poems, but the meaning and interpretations lend themselves to human understanding, of ourselves, and others. We all need help. This book helps me.
2 reviews3 followers
December 2, 2010
"The Guest House"

This being human is a guest house.
Every morning a new arrival.

A joy, a depression, a meanness,
some momentary awareness comes
as an unexpected visitor.

Welcome and entertain them all!
Even if they're a crowd of sorrows,
who violently sweep your house
empty of its furniture,
still, treat each guest honorably.
He may be clearing you out
for some new delight.

The dark thought, the shame, the malice,
meet them at the door laughing,
and invite them in.

Be grateful for whoever comes,
because each has been sent
as a guide from beyond.

~ Rumi ~

(The Essential Rumi, versions by Coleman Barks)
Profile Image for Colin Kinlund.
3 reviews7 followers
January 29, 2008
I wanted to quote some verses from this book, but each line was made more beautiful by the one before it, and the one before that, until I’d have to include the whole book. And yet somehow the reverse effect is also true, in which the entirety of the mystic and divine collected in these pages is reflected in every word. Rumi writes: “The study of this book will be painful to those who feel separate from God.” But to read any one of these poems is to erase that separation completely. You that love lovers, this is your home. Welcome!
Profile Image for Junta.
130 reviews221 followers
March 8, 2021
Let yourself be silently drawn
by the stronger pull of what you really love.
Compared to the 13th century, when Rumi walked this Earth, today's world is like another planet. But reading his verses reminds you, in these 800 years, we haven't changed at all when it comes to the heart, mind, and soul. We still laugh, cry, smile, suffer, love, live and die from today to tomorrow, from one generation to the next, from one country to its neighbour, from the deepest ocean floor to the highest mountain peak, from the sunlight in my apartment to the moonlight in yours, from a poem read to a review written. With his words, overflowing with love and longing for the connection between everything, Rumi shows we are all different and thus all the same, just happening to be experiencing life in the same period—life is a feast of delicious food and intoxicating wine, in which the chair we are seated on may traverse continents, the table we lean over may span decades, the cutlery and crockery aren't always there for us, and some of the dishes are poisoned, but the essence is always in the same place, not in front of us or behind us, but inside us, somewhere outside time and space, where we are warmed by the sun's rays as we lie on a bed of snow, dive down from the ocean into the treetops, listen to birdsong in an overhead field of flowers, dream with our eyes open, and end a journey and start another with every second.
In your light I learn how to love.
In your beauty, how to make poems.

You dance inside my chest,
where no one sees you,

but sometimes I do,
and that sight becomes this art.
Of course, we can't stomach that which is too sweet. Rumi's poems can feel like they are too full of love, too full of joy, that we read some pages and it sows the seeds for the opposite inside us, because life can be cruel, disappointing and painful, and we've learned that there are good days and bad, everything is ethereal, and when we feel joy or love towards someone or something, we also take on the risk of losing them, fear and anxiety are just around the corner, so we can't just blindly nibble on cake and sip wine all day, because we can't only have good things, and we can't all be saints without attachments, though we can each certainly take some things away from Rumi's poems.
There are such vicious and empty flatterers
in your life. Do the careful,
donkey-tending work.

Don't trust that to anyone else.
There are hypocrites who will praise you,
but who do not care about the health
of your heart-donkey.

Be concentrated and leonine
in the hunt for what is your true nourishment.
Don't be distracted by blandishment-noises,
of any sort.
As with any collection of poetry, I think reading too many of his lines at once, or in a short span of time, can be dizzying and disorienting. He doesn't only speak about wine, love and God (though there are a lot of these), but the opposite in equal measure, our demons, the sides of ourselves we don't want to show others, people experiencing their darkest days. Rumi on a happy day, and rue me on a sad day.
Do you pay regular visits to yourself?
Don't argue or answer rationally.

Let us die,
and dying, reply.
It was a sunny day when I started writing this, but there was a thunderstorm which passed by, and now it's just cloudy. Why do I feel like I need to finish that bottle of sake in the fridge?

8 March, 2021

P.S. see my updates for more poem excerpts.
Profile Image for Alina.
143 reviews72 followers
December 17, 2019
"The Essential Rumi" is Coleman Barks’ selective translation from Rumi’s works, because “Rumi’s creativity was a continuous fountaining from beyond forms and the mind” (Loc. 444) and the twenty-eight divisions of the book are fluid and playful, as Barks himself writes; however, each section contains a Sufi symbol or poetic motif (the wine, desire-body, the sheikh, the turn etc.) and a few explanations before the series of poems begins. These literary creations contain Sufi wisdom and quotes from the Qur’an, which are interweaved with tales and fables, whose purpose is to teach the reader how harmful are the bodily desires and instincts (the animal-soul or the metaphor of the donkey) and how important is the annihilation of the ego (one must dissolve one’s identity/personality) in order to become one with God.

The poems about instincts and desires are pretty graphic and their purpose is to show the ridiculous situations and wrongdoings caused by human lust, greed, envy or pride. However, my favourite part of this volume is the variety of metaphors about the relationship between soul, body and God. If the body is a donkey, God is the King or the Caliph, the Friend or Beloved to whom the lover must ascend to unite with Him, the flame through which the Sufi is cooked like a clay pot and so on.

Rumi uses biblical figures that appear in the Qur’an: Adam, Joseph, Moses and Jesus. King Solomon is also a metaphor for God, Queen of Sheba is the soul, but she doesn’t want to come to the king’s court without her impressive throne (the body). Jesus also appears in some poems, where He rides a donkey, “how the rational intellect/ should control the animal-soul./Let your spirit be strong like Jesus” (Loc. 3464). Though the relationship between the lover and the Beloved is spiritual, that doesn’t mean it is not intense or sensual. To exemplify, I’m going to recommend a video, in which many well-known people (including Madonna, Demi Moore, Deepak Chopra and Coleman Barks) read Rumi’s poems and the experience is enhanced by amazing music with Middle-Eastern inflextions.

Overall, mystic poetry wasn’t that hard to read, because Coleman Barks translated Rumi’s works into plain and colloquial English. The verses don't have rhymes and the editorial explanations are like that well-trained guide that doesn’t let you get lost in the Persian poet’s divine wisdom. This is a book that makes you meditate about your soul and the nourishment it needs, especially in a materialistic world like ours. Also, his poems inspire you to appreciate more your family, friends and the small things that make your life beautiful.

This entire review has been hidden because of spoilers.
Profile Image for Farnoosh Brock.
Author 17 books217 followers
April 16, 2022
I love Rumi. I am Persian and so was he, although the comparison stops there. Rumi was brilliant.

In September of 2012, I created a photographic gallery of Rumi quotations and used a few of the quotes from Coleman Bark's book with direct permission from the author - I thought it was so cool that he emailed me back and was gracious about it. This book has been sitting on my nightstand for months. I pick it up in between other books, read a page or two, let it sink and then go back to it a few nights later .... it's been slow.

The translation is great but the content is very hard to put into context.... it's like reading about another person's dreams.... they make very little sense except a few moments in time when something clarifying and brilliant happens. That's how I feel about this book. I enter a convoluted dream of someone else and emerge with maybe a few words of wisdom. I attribute it mainly to my own lack of appreciation and understanding of Rumi and wish I could grasp it even more but I will keep reading it. Among all Rumi books, I do believe this is one of the best ones from all the reviews but you be the judge.

Here's one of my most favorites quotes by Barks from his translations: "What you seek is seeking you." Beautiful!

I love that when I contacted Mr. Barks to get his permission to use some of his quotations on my own Rumi book (on Amazon), he gave me full support in a personal email.
7 reviews5 followers
August 16, 2008
The has to be my second favorite book of poetry. Rumi was less of a poet I believe, and more a vessel of grace; the messages, parables, imagery, and lyrical quality of his work makes me think much of the Psalms. Coleman Barks' translations are exquisite. I've read many different translations of Rumi, and none are as strong, brilliant, and seem to breathe with love as his. It seems that Barks was specifically chosen to be spoken through by this 12th century Sufi. I had the great pleasure to meet him once( Coleman Barks, not Rumi). (: He had an incredible serenity about him and an honest face. He seemed to have something that I've always wanted: The peace with comes with knowing you have absolutely nothing to be ashamed of, nothing to hide, no secrets or lies. He signed my copy of The Illuminated Rumi and told me to keep on writing my own poetry. If you ever decide to read anything of Rumi's, I suggest you toss aside any other translator if you really want to feel the full impact of his majestic poetry.
Profile Image for Florencia.
649 reviews1,900 followers
December 29, 2020

On the tavern
In the tavern are many wines ... Being human means entering this place where entrancing varieties of desire are served. The grapeskin of ego breaks and a pouring begins.
But after some time in the tavern, a point comes, a memory of elsewhere, a longing for the source, and the drunks must set off from the tavern and begin the return. The Qur'an says, "We are all returning." The tavern is a kind of glorious hell that human beings enjoy and suffer and then push off from in their search for truth. The tavern is a dangerous region where sometimes disguises are necessary, but never bide your heart, Rumi urges. Keep open there. A breaking apart, a crying out into the street, begins in the tavern, and the human soul turns to find its way home.

May 5, 20
Profile Image for BrokenTune.
750 reviews202 followers
January 21, 2020
I've been dipping in and out of Rumi's Selected Poems for a couple of weeks and I don't think his poetry is for me.

I'm having the same reaction towards Rumi's work as I had towards Khalil Gibran's The Prophet, ... and Paolo Coelho's The Alchemist. I just want to tell the poems / books to move along and pester someone else.

It just doesn't grab me. So, I'll be passing this book on to a friend who seemed quite interested when I jokingly quoted "let darkness be your candle".

I think Rumi deserves a more patient reader than I am.
Profile Image for Rad.
15 reviews37 followers
February 10, 2017
Rumi needs no introduction, no rating, no recommendation, no stars. He is above and beyond all of this – he is a constellation unto himself. He is THAT magnificent a magician. And his readers in English, me included, can’t just thank Coleman Barks enough for translating the beauty and spirit of his poetry brilliantly. I have read other translations of Rumi but those are mere translations – but Coleman Barks’ is Rumi. Quintessentially. And this particular collection is brimming with gems. His poetry speaks to everyone, irrespective of all external layers. And thankfully there is no rhyme, the one characteristic of poetry, that really puts me off. But then his poetry needs no rhyme – it has its own music, its own order of sorts underlying the free flow. But most unfortunately Rumi also happens to be the most widely quoted, used, abused poet, esp. on social networking sites…which seems to me as such an affront to his creation. But then he does have universal appeal and a perennial relevance – and the century he wrote in, virtual world was inconceivable or else he would’ve never written, I guess. And ironically, I’m saying this here.:). Personally for me, while being introduced to this poet about fourteen years back, was one of the best things that ever happened to me…the only downside (if I may call it so) has been….that since I read Rumi, I find it nearly impossible to read or appreciate any other poet/poetry (except Zen poetry of course) - the same thing that happened to me after I tripped on Duras – I have to make a considerable amount of effort to read through another writer and the rate of failure of reading through another writer outnumbers the rate of success hugely!! :(
Profile Image for Sheida.
533 reviews95 followers
December 31, 2015
I only have myself to blame for this one. I don't know what possessed me, self-proclaimed poetry hater, to read 416 pages of Persian poetry translated into English. (confession: I do know what possessed me though for the sake of my reputation lets not mention that I read this after Harry Styles was seen reading it). Overall, I understood a lot more than I do when I read the originals, I enjoyed a few parts of it and I highlighted quite a bit but at the end of the book I was left feeling slightly sorry for people who only get to experience Persian poetry like this because even though I'm not a fan of poetry, I can appreciate the rhymes and the melodic beauty and imagery that these poems have in Persian whereas in the translation everything was too literal and too crude for me and well, for lack of a better word, it just lacked the essence of poetry.
Profile Image for Maureen.
726 reviews87 followers
June 9, 2008
Coleman Barks went to Philadelphia to visit The Bawa Muhaiyaddeen, a Sri Lankan Muslim sheik. The Bawa told him that his life's work would be translating the poems of Jelalludin Rumi. Barks took The Bawa's advice to heart, and started down the path that would find Barks becoming the truest, most inspired translator of Rumi's work. I have read many different translators' work, and none of them, not even Stephen MItchell, can begin to compare with Barks.

It is impossible to study Sufism and not include a study of Rumi. He is one of the most revered Muslim poets, and with good reason. His work taps into the deepest desire of a human's heart: to be one with the Beloved. Here is a small selection, that was read at a friend's funeral:

The breeze at dawn has secrets to tell you.
Don't go back to sleep.
You must ask for what you really want.
Don't go back to sleep.
People are going back and forth across the doorsill
where the two worlds touch.
The door is round and open.
Don't go back to sleep.

Rumi addresses all of the fundamental dilemmas of everyday life, from falling in love to doing chores with such sensitivity, such brillance, and such an open heart, that even though he was born in 1207, his work remains fresh and new today.
Profile Image for MissUnderstoodGenius.
59 reviews40 followers
August 5, 2015
Rumi's writings are like a finger that again and again catches our attention by touching the deepest places in our hearts and pointing us in the direction of life.

This is a beautifully put together book of interpretations of translations of some of Rumi's work and offers a good introduction to Rumi's life. Rumi's words appear contemporary, and contain many wonderful thoughts, as well as his share of strange ones. Enlightenment is expressed in these poems.

If you haven't read Rumi, you will not regret reading this. It's beautiful, earthy, and will assist your path to enlightenment and not in any particular spiritual belief, but enlightened spirituality. Rumi not only gives you a taste, he also gives you clues on how you can begin your journey to get there - "Take that long journey into yourself."

Would I recommend?:
Definitely. Also, "Rumi: A Spiritual Biography" by Leslie Wines which although is a vigorous and ambitious little book but I think a must read for all those with a real love for this most incredible man and poet.
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