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The Kabir Book: Forty-Four of the Ecstatic Poems of Kabir

4.26  ·  Rating details ·  806 ratings  ·  38 reviews
Forty-four of the Ecstatic Poems of Kabir
"Kabir's poems give off a marvelous radiant intensity. . . . Bly's versions . . . have exactly the luminous depth that permits and invites many rereadings, many studyings-even then they remain as fresh as ever."
-The New York Times Book Review
Paperback, 71 pages
Published February 1st 1993 by Beacon Press (MA) (first published 1977)
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Bill Kerwin
May 22, 2007 rated it it was amazing

Not all that long ago, in another review, I wrote that I preferred the Rabindranath Tagore translation to this one. I take it back. I was a fool to say so. Revisiting Bly’s translation recently, after more than two decades, I was struck by its clarity, its passion, its vivid and compelling voice.

I chose Tagore because—in philosophical seriousness and bibilical gravity—I imagine his translation more closely reflects the original. But, knowing nothing of the language, who am I to say? Besides, two
Dec 01, 2012 rated it liked it
Recommended to Jan by: André Levi
What is it about ecstatic poetry by poets like Rumi that invites "translation" by people with no knowledge of the language in which the poetry was actually written? Why would a poet, who as a poet must be acutely aware of the need for precision in language, think that paraphrasing a translation of a translation of someone else's poem produces something worthy of publication? I've seen this done by at least three different poets, all quite serious about their efforts. I guess this is the best one ...more
Sep 07, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Painfully, awfully, cripplingly awesome. I've been a fan of Bly for years, and of course he turns all of his translations into Robert Bly poems, but damn...this is good. This book shames me and my own approach to writing---everything I try to say in 1000 words this book does in 70. Sometimes I find a book I know I'll read about 30 times, and this is one of those books---it has given me so much joy, I am angry at it. ...more
May 07, 2008 rated it liked it
Shelves: poetry
Picked this up at random at a used book store that specializes in the occult and other such flim-flammery following my policy of occasionally doing this.

Kabir insists on a present, erotic divinity. We're, like, always getting f*cked by God (in the good way). This is a challenging conception of things, and the book is best when moving between this vital recognition and acknowledging the difficulty of following the path that such a recognition outlines--invitation and warning.

Bly's translation, I
Chiththarthan Nagarajan
Sep 17, 2016 rated it really liked it
Kabir! Kabir! Kabir!

I asked myself, after reading this book. Did I miss anything special in my life?

Answer is Yes and No.

Yes. I didn't read the 14th century heart-melting soulful words. And that "No" is just a lie.

Kabir gives a mundane question with a complication in an air, but the answers were coloured with an essence of soul.

What is god?
He is the breath inside the breath

P.S. Why you should read this book?
What is inside me moves inside you.


Feb 13, 2009 rated it it was amazing
Knowing nothing shuts the iron gates; the new love opens them

The sound of the gates opening wakes the beautiful woman asleep.

Kabir says: Fantastic! Don't let a chance like this go by!
Mark Gonzalez
Jun 28, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Hiss poems are very androgynous yet full of passion. Aside from J. Rumi, he is my other favorite sufi poet.
T Fool
Sep 18, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: reviewed-books
Something about 'non-Western mentality', the less-than-rational, or the putting aside of the rational, that's sluggish in prose, but that sparkles in poems.

Kabir's own words will forever be unknown to me, just as I can make my way only clumsily and from the outside of mindsets rooted east of Suez, further east even, in the soil of the Asian subcontinent.

Rich, rich. Maybe the mystery is extra, my being so very American, so very molded from cosmopolitan ideals looking much like the best of New Yo
Feb 17, 2020 rated it it was amazing
It was quite difficult to read, so it took me a while to finish it. However, there's a lot of poem that really sticks to me and make senses of life.

One of the example,

"The small ruby everyone wants has fallen out on the road.
Some think it is east of us, others west of us.
Some say, 'among the primitive earth rocks,' others, 'in the deep waters.'
Kabir's instinct told him it was inside, and what it was worth,
And he wrapped it up carefully in his heart cloth."
Erik Akre
Jul 26, 2015 rated it liked it
Recommends it for: seekers; meditators; devotees
Shelves: poetry
Kabir: ecstatic and rebellious originality; opposition to standard dogmas; intensity more important than method: The primary danger is spiritual passivity.

Listen to Kabir:

Don't go outside your house to see flowers.
My friend, don't bother with that excursion.
Inside your body there are flowers.
One flower has a thousand petals.
That will do for a place to sit.
Sitting there you will have a glimpse of beauty
inside the body and out of it,
before gardens and after gardens.

Robert Sheppard



In the 1500's the Mughals under their leader Babur made their way into India, expanding under Akbar the Great, and bui
John Fredrickson
Mar 11, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: poetry, spiritual, sufi
As a quick aside here, one of my favorite poets is Whitman. Whitman's early Leaves of Grass is somewhat epic in size and scope as it catalogs the people and life around him in ways that are ultimately and ecstatically bursting with eroticism and vigor.

The Kabir Book in contrast, has a small number of very short poems. Each poem can be scanned in seconds, but each one addresses something that stops you dead in your tracks. In each poem, the poet points to something, often with sensuous imagery, b
Jul 29, 2017 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: poetry
There was probably too much lost in translation, too many substitutions and other changes for the poems to have the full meaning as intended. Plus my own blind spot of the politics & history of where the poems came from (which, as the afterward points out, were glossed over in Bly's version of the poems anyway) -- still, they were enjoyable. ...more
Apr 17, 2019 rated it it was amazing
I was given a tape years back of this book translated by Robert Bly- spoken verse accompanied by tabla (Indian drum). It took me to a place I had never gone before. It resonated so deep. ( a deep felt sense of being re-woken up.) His teachings are wise and the verses lovely. I bought the book when the tape died. Its in my earthquake box with other books I love.
Feb 25, 2018 rated it it was ok
A westernized interpretation, misidentified as a translation, that does little justice to the language of the original thinker.
May 04, 2020 rated it really liked it
Ecstatic indeed.
Ryan J.
Aug 26, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Timeless wisdom of the divine
Jan 03, 2021 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: lit-poetry
Too Westernized

Bly’s translation does a little too much to westernize Kabir. I found the afterword pretty useless. But the poems themselves are gold.
Dec 29, 2016 rated it really liked it
Poem 19 people. Effing poem 19.
Jan 04, 2008 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: ecstatics; grumpy admirers of ecstatics
Recommended to Jessica by: present from dear brother jonathan
My first exposure to Kabir was when my stepmom played me a tape she has of Robert Bly reading these poems, so to this day whenever I read them I hear his voice in my mind saying the words with someone playing the tablas in the background. Fortunately, this is a good thing.

(Dear friend: you might not be familiar with Kabir yourself, and you might have just read what I just wrote and got the erroneous impression that somehow my Bookface account was hacked into by an overly sincere middle-aged goat
Michael Graber
Kabir is an ecstatic poet whose goal was to write the heart of experience. These translation free his words from the "hopeless" Victorian of Tagore and Underhill. This edition sets the stage with compelling prose, a feast of poems, then a longer, historic essay to end.

Given that the world has produced so few credible Wisdom poets, Kabir is worth every sublime second one spends in this intricate and inspired world.
Mehwish Mughal
Jul 25, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
"There is a flag no one sees blowing in the
A blue cloth has been stretched up,
it is decorated with the moon and many jewels.

The sun and the moon can be seen in that place;
when looking at that, bring your mind down to

I will tell you the truth:
the man who has drunk from that liquid wanders
around like someone insane."
May 10, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: verse
The idea that the soul will join with the ecstatic
just because the body is rotten --
that is all fantasy.

If you find nothing now,
you will simply end up with an apartment in the City of Death.
If you make love with the Divine now, in the next life you will have the face of satisfied desire.
Alli Brook
Jul 06, 2008 marked it as to-read
This was the closest I could get to finding a different book entitled 'The Kabir Body', which I heard readings from during two of Robert Hall's Dharma talks in Todos Santos, Baja ( If anyone ever finds it please let me know! ...more
Apr 13, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This was my first attempt at reading Kabir, and I had some trouble with understanding him. I've no doubt he's an amazing poet though, and I really did enjoy a lot of his poetry. I plan on trying another translation and seeing if I have better luck. ...more
Jul 31, 2008 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
not as astounding as i'd've liked. ...more
Aug 03, 2012 rated it it was ok
Shelves: poetry
Found his translations heavy-handed and obviously modern-psychology-influenced. Better than nothing, however.
Janis Taylor
Jan 06, 2013 rated it really liked it
I think I'll read it again. ...more
Stevie Hine
Jul 21, 2013 rated it did not like it
Shelves: poetry

And I usually love sufi poetry.
Beth Chapman
Would have liked more Kabir poems. Much of book is historical and description which was informative. Thought I would be able to experience more of Kabir's writings. ...more
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Kabīr was a mystic poet and saint of India, whose writings have greatly influenced the Bhakti movement. The name Kabir comes from Arabic al-Kabīr which means "The Great" – the 37th name of God in Islam. Kabir's legacy is today carried forward by the Kabir panth ("Path of Kabir"), a religious community that recognises him as its founder and is one of the Sant Mat sects. Its members, known as Kabir ...more

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“I laugh when I hear that the fish in the water is thirsty.

You don't grasp the fact that what is most alive of all is inside your own house;
and you walk from one holy city to the next with a confused look!

Kabir will tell you the truth: go wherever you like, to Calcutta or Tibet;
if you can't find where your soul is hidden,
for you the world will never be real!”
“The guest is inside you, and also inside me;
you know the sprout is hidden inside the seed.
We are all struggling; none of us has gone far.
Let your arrogance go, and look around inside.

The blue sky opens out farther and farther,
the daily sense of failure goes away,
the damage I have done to myself fades,
a million suns come forward with light,
when I sit firmly in that world.

I hear bells ringing that no one has shaken,
inside "love" there is more joy than we know of,
rain pours down, although the sky is clear of clouds,
there are whole rivers of light.
The universe is shot through in all parts by a single sort of love.
How hard it is to feel that joy in all our four bodies!

Those who hope to be reasonable about it fail.
The arrogance of reason has separated us from that love.
With the word "reason" you already feel miles away.”
More quotes…