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Mirabai: Ecstatic Poems

4.21  ·  Rating details ·  212 ratings  ·  28 reviews
Mirabai is a literary and spiritual figure of legendary proportions. Born a princess in the region of Rajasthan in 1498, Mira (as she is more commonly known) fought tradition and celebrated a woman's right to an independent life in her ecstatic poems. Her royal family arranged an early marriage for her, but she felt a marriage to Krishna was more important. As a result, he ...more
Hardcover, 120 pages
Published November 19th 2004 by Beacon Press (first published January 1st 2004)
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Truth be told (even if it isn't much in fashion these days), I chose this book despite knowing nothing of the Indian poet-saint Mirabai. It was the names of the "translators" (quotes because they are more correctly called "interpreters" creating "versions"), Robert Bly and Jane Hirshfield.

Mirabai, apparently, was a real woman born in the north of India around 1498. And though she married a mortal, that's about the only acceptable thing she did in the eyes of society, for it was all downhill afte
Jan 14, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Okay, I am a sucker for Bhakti and Sufi poetry. Perhaps because it's one kind of poetry I can really understand or perhaps it's the raw emotions these poems evoke.
As someone who has studied the Bhakti movement, I have been reading Mirabai's poetry for a while now. I particularly enjoyed this version because of Bly and Hirshfield's translations. They are easy to understand and use vivid imagery, the way Mira's poems did in her language. I might not have read Mirabai as extensively as a research
Sep 21, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: poetry
The way bhakti works —
you just LOVE
until you and the Beloved
becomes ONE.

Mira is the epitome of Bhakti. She had the Grace to see the Absolute for what it was, and defied the worldly roles asked of her.

"The ocean of life—that’s not genuine; the ties
of family, the obligations to the world—they’re
not genuine.
It is your beauty that makes me drunk."

Mira remained drunk on this elixir of Life, that is LOVE and sought her eternal Beloved throughout the years, and through many lifetimes.

Mira says, My
Brian Wilcox
Jun 18, 2018 rated it really liked it
I recommend one read the Afterword first, giving introduction to Mirabai, poems linked to her name, method of rendition in this book. One finds the poetry of Mirabai is more of archetypal 'person', intoxicated with divine Love, than a historical one; Mirabai herself, while historical, becomes a tradition of verse, song, and acting that cannot be linked with her life but indirectly, as a moving-ever-changing-atmosphere of love-energy and devotion.

The renditions in this tome are rather free in na
There's no doubting the authenticity of the poets and the Afterword by John Stratton Hawley is worth the price of the book. Nevertheless, perhaps being an Indian, the translations didn't fully gel with me.
There is so much written about Meera (this spelling is preferred by me). It's also that fact out of the scores of poems attributed to Meera, scholars think only approximately 70 may be authentic. Those with a more rigorous approach feel only two can be directly attributed to her. I only know of
Jun 13, 2009 rated it it was amazing
This book so perfectly combines all the things I love most in literature (a strong female voice; a female character who assertively takes her sexuality into her own hands and actively plays the role of initiator/seeker in her love relationships; an unstintingly vivid, sometimes-hyperbolic depiction of the painful realities of eros and longing; sexuality as a metaphor for spirituality; overtones of Eastern religion and its call to the renunciation of materialism) that it can't possibly be good fo ...more
Jan 10, 2021 rated it really liked it
Not a "review" but I'm so struck by the similarities that characterise the spirituality of medieval women across space/culture. Especially thinking of the immediacy (?) that an incarnationist faith offers-how that translates to navigating (often spurring) the world of domesticity. And the way it resonates with us now? A lot to take in! ...more
Feb 14, 2018 rated it really liked it
15th century female poet who is both earthy and transcendent, often in the same poem.
Mar 27, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: poetry
This volume is short and can easily be read in one sitting. That being said, it is better appreciated if consumed slowly, maybe one poem at a time. The structures are simple, but these simple structures support an incredible emotional energy. In the introduction, Mirabai’s poems are described very well. “Mirabai offers in her poems the sheer strength of their beauty, founded in the sharp-edged perception of a person who has opened to her own experience in every dimension. She also offers two cen ...more
Feb 06, 2021 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: poetry
There are so many things to celebrate about this collection: the way the poet bodily experiences love for god, the complementary nature of the two translators Robert Bly and Jane Hirshfield, the elevation of love itself to the heavens, the author's continual self-references even as we know that who the author is may be constantly changing over the centuries. Lust and devotion are not typical partners but in these verses they both know how to follow and both know how to lead. Consider it a forgot ...more
Matt Miles
Apr 17, 2019 rated it really liked it
Mirabai made the bold choice of rejecting marriage, claiming her spirituality made her life full enough. That fullness is explored in her sparse and vivid poems, celebrating the fruits of her choice to live her life on her own terms according to her conscience. Why, she argues, should she settle for less? Or as she puts it:

The earth looked at Him and began to dance.
Mira knows why, for her soul too
is in love.

If you cannot picture God
in a way that always

You need to read
Fred Dameron
Jan 17, 2020 rated it really liked it
Shelves: owned
This is a wonderful collection of worship poems. Mirabai has caught the essence of the love of God and brought it to another level. The problem I had with this collection is I should have read the after notes first. The notes give someone who is not very familiar with Brahmism a quick over view of both the religious, social, economic and political situation when the poems were written. Very usefull information so I reread all the poems and the breadth and feelings came through even clearer.

Tea Nicolae
Oct 01, 2020 rated it it was amazing
her poetry is sown to my heart:

🕊 Mīrā dances, how can her ankle bells not dance?
“Mīr is insane,” strangers say that. “The family’s ruined.”
Poison came to the door one day; she drank it and laughed.
I am at Harī’s feet; I give my Beloved body and soul.
A glimpse of the One is water: How thirsty I am for that! 🕊

Stories to live in.
May 02, 2020 rated it liked it
Shelves: indian-lit
This was a great translation.
But I weep, because I understand how much was lost in translation.
This work while a valiant effort can't compare to the original work.
so please please please if you can read and understand the language please read Mirabai's original work.
Laura Anne
Jul 12, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: poetry
This is erotic - forget Youtube.
Harsh Bharti
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Mythical Reads
4.5 stars

Beautiful. I need more. Its nothing like I've read before and I am so happy. Mirabai is amazing and her poetry is beautiful.
Nov 14, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Really clear translations of Mirabai's poetry and a great way to introduce English speakers to a treasure of Braj Bhasha literature. ...more
Nov 09, 2017 rated it it was amazing
I can relate to crazy bhakti. I needed these poems.
Jul 11, 2016 rated it it was ok
In his Afterword to this book, Columbia professor of religion John Stratton Hawley, author of the revelatory At Play with Krishna, records of sixteenth-century Hindu saint Mirabai's poetry, "If you read it in the 'original' -- in Hindi, on the page -- the force of individual words and phrases tends to be far less compelling than what one meets in verse attributed to many other poets of her generation and ilk. ... But liberate them from the page and into speech, and then out of speech and into so ...more
May 10, 2014 rated it liked it
I am so very fond of both Bly and Hirshfield (Hirshfield in particular I love) so I wanted to give this book 5 stars. I just couldn't, I didn't like the poetry so much. With the afterword by Hawley I learned that Mirabai really was not a great linguist, she was more about experience. I guess my response is: can't we have both?

I believe that Bly and Hirshfield did a great translation, to the spirit of Mirabai's poems. Yet I didn't enjoy them as much as I enjoy other mystical poems in translation
Michael Graber
Sep 26, 2011 rated it it was amazing
Mira has the stamina to withstand poisonous snakes, the wrath of murderous in-laws, and the shattering love of the Dark One. This book stands as a testament of the potency of well wrought wisdom and devotional poems over merely lyrical types. Bly and Hirshfield bring Mira to life fully, as if she lives inside your ear and heart. Those who love Hafiz, Kabir, and Rumi will rejoice to discover these gems of fire.
Malini Sridharan
Jun 17, 2007 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: bestever
Wonderful translations of Mirabai's poetry. The translation really stresses the nihilistic/rebellious side of her work rather than the religious, which I liked a lot but might turn off a more devout reader. ...more
Sam Kepp
Jan 27, 2016 rated it liked it
Mirabai's story and poems are fascinating, and worth reading, but Bly's translations suffer from the same trouble his poems do: a general staleness. I would love to read a different translation of this remarkable woman's work. ...more
Don Wentworth
Apr 15, 2014 rated it liked it
Fine work, though not quite up my street. The 3 star rating probably applies more to the reader than the poet/translator.
Mills College Library
811.54 B661mi 2004
Naomi Ruth
Jul 08, 2013 rated it liked it
Shh... Don't tell anyone. I didn't actually read the non-poem part of this book. ...more
Michele Langston
rated it it was amazing
Dec 24, 2015
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Meera [(ca. 1498-1547)], also known as Mira Bai, was a 16th century Hindu mystic poetess and devotee of Krishna. She is celebrated as a poet and has been definitively claimed by the North Indian Hindu tradition of Bhakti saints.

Meera was born in a royal family of Rajasthan, and her education included music, religion, politics and government. She married Bhojraj the crown prince of Mewar in 1516, h

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“My friend, I went to the market and bought the Dark One.
You claim by night, I claim by day.
Actually I was beating a drum all the time I was buying him.
You say I gave too much; I say too little.
Actually, I put him on a scale before I bought him.
What I paid was my social body, my town body, my family body, and all my inherited jewels.
Mirabai says: The Dark One is my husband now.
Be with me when I lie down; you promised me this in an earlier life.”
“The heat of midnight tears will bring you to God.” 3 likes
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