Winter Sky: New and Selected Poems, 1968-2008


As the foremost translator of thirteenth-century mystic poet Jalal Al-Din Rumi, Coleman Barks reaches a devoted, inspired, and ever-widening international audience. Yet the foundation for Barks's work as a translator is his own significant body of work as a poet. Winter Sky offers a selection from Barks's seven previously published books combined with a group of new poems.

Barks's open-hearted, free verse poetry is infused with a joy of the spirit at play with the forms of the ...

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As the foremost translator of thirteenth-century mystic poet Jalal Al-Din Rumi, Coleman Barks reaches a devoted, inspired, and ever-widening international audience. Yet the foundation for Barks's work as a translator is his own significant body of work as a poet. Winter Sky offers a selection from Barks's seven previously published books combined with a group of new poems.

Barks's open-hearted, free verse poetry is infused with a joy of the spirit at play with the forms of the world. His journey through life is deeply embedded in his work. The poems spring directly from experience and engage with subjects such as the elation and struggle of having and raising children, grief over the deaths of loved ones, the transition from parent to grandparent, or the changing nature and intensity of desire. Barks's open letter to President Bush, written days before the invasion of Iraq and widely circulated online, is a poetic plea for peace, offering a startling and moving alternative to war.

Whether it is the childhood excitement of being named best athlete at summer camp or the early signs of dementia at the age of seventy, Barks uses the personal to convey the universal. The unique flow of a life is here in poems that are rueful, confused, torn, and grateful, but always informed by Barks's transcendent sense of joy and playfulness.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher

"Barks is a master of the complicated human poem. Some poets open their poems to what is Significant. Barks sets down the remarks that a waitress said to him one night in a late-night restaurant. There is a great unfolding of the world here."--Robert Bly

"Why do people read poems? For comfort and a sense of companionship, for encouragement, for the beauty of language, for energy placed on the page with a wish to give it away. Coleman Barks is one of the best. He has given us Rumi. Now he gives us his own work, which is thoughtful, compassionate, attentive and, at times, positively frisky. We are all enriched by his presence in this collection of his own poems. My advice: get a copy as fast as you can and, by the influence of his voice which honors both the vatic and the experience of his own singular life, be both comforted and mindfully enlivened."--Mary Oliver

"Reading Coleman Barks is the equivalent of a rich transfusion of vitality. His writings carry a huge generosity of spirit replenishing everything good, funny, brave, brilliant, honest, readers could ever hope for. Nothing rejected or shunned, but life in all its conflicted elegance graciously taken into the circle and tossed up into new light: one of the widest-open, wildest voices we might ever embrace."--Naomi Shihab Nye

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780820340869
  • Publisher: Brown Thrasher Books
  • Publication date: 1/15/2012
  • Pages: 336
  • Sales rank: 1,514,483
  • Product dimensions: 5.70 (w) x 8.60 (h) x 0.90 (d)

Meet the Author

Coleman Barks is the bestselling translator of The Essential Rumi, The Soul of Rumi, and Rumi: The Book of Love. He taught creative writing and American poetry in the English Department at the University of Georgia for thirty years and currently lives in Athens, Georgia.
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Table of Contents

Acknowledgments xiii
Notes in Lieu of Preface xv


The Center 3
Extravagance 6
The Light in Everyone’s Eyes 8
As the Dew 9
from There ain’t nothing like it. 10
On Spirit 11

Guidance We Have Need Of 17
Reading in Bed 18
from Notebooks 19
Wine Poems 20
The Speed of Consciousness and August 18th 22
Car Trips 23
The Return of Professor Dumwhistle 24
These Winter Skies 25
Losing It 26
American College Students Overheard in a Restaurant
After I Return from Afghanistan 31
Just This Once 33
from Central Asian Sufis and the Nature of the Heart 38

1978 – 2002

Tentmaking 45
Purring 49
Divination 50
Book Tour Cure for Talking Too Much in Public 51
Question 52
Bill Matthews Coming Along 54
Black Rubber Ball 55
Bridge 57
Luke and the Duct Tape 58
Whittling 62
Spring Morning 64
Light on Leaves 65
The Ant 66
Abscission Leaf, Looking into Water 69
Silo, Spring Violets 71
The Final Final 72
Currycombing 74
Donald Hall Is Falling Down 76
The Animal 78
So Close, Not a Foot 79
Love for Clouds 80
1971 and 1942 81
None Other 85
Fly 86
Stone 87
Lard Gourd 89
The Railing 91
What We Learn from Literature 92
These Very Feet 94
The Look on the Dog’s Face 95
Grace 96
Service 97
The Saint and Sinner Bullshit 98
Fine Arts Auditorium 99
Night Train, Southern France 101
Kingsnake 103
Driving Back from the Mountains 104
Straying 106
Elegy for John Seawright 107

No Finale 115
Club 116
Wietien 117
To Make an Ocean 118
Auspices 120
Boxkite 123
Dumb Chess 124
Glad 125
In Opening Game Day Traffic 126
Poetry for Children 127

A Wish 133
A Section of the Oconee Near Watkinsville 134
Buttermilk 135
The House of the Tibetan Bellmaker 136
Higdon Cove 137
The Great Blue Heron 138
In the Woods, You and I 141
Fried Green Tomato Sandwiches 143
A Walk in the Botanical Gardens 145
Bedclothes 146
Titty- Bream 148
Summer Food 150
Kindling 152
The Fire 153
The Wind Today 154
Orange Circles on Lavender Wings 155
Let the Door Be Locked 157
Hymenoptera 159
Some Orange Juice 161
WRFC 162
Walk Soup 165
Each Peach 168
The Tree 170
Audience 174
Spring Lizards 176
The Grocery Store 177
Vigil Notes 179
New Year’s Day Nap 181
Darshan Singh and Christian Harmony 186
Small Talk: Coffee, The Second Mike Poem, Three, Every Evening, The End of the Sentence, The Fucking Grave, Salt 188
Becoming Milton 204
Two- Hour Wait in Toronto 206
Night Creek 215
An Up- Till- Now- Uncelebrated Joy 219
These Things, Hereafter 220
Sleet 224
The Brain- House 226
Carolina Silverbells 228
Fightingtown Creek 230
Gourd Day 232
A Hard- Cuss for Gourd Seed 233

1967 – 1977

Good night. 237
Snow. 238
Putting up a bowl, its true resting 239
A flame is walking 240
This is how we’d like 241

Sunbath in May 247
The Last Rebirth 249
The Hall Mirror 251
Sand 253
New Words 254

Body Poems—Big Toe, Stomach, Elbow, Cheek, Heart, Brain,
Appendix, Knuckles, Navel, Shoulder Blades, Jaw, Upper Lip,
Adam’s Apple, Small of the Back, Crown of the Hair, Tongue, Bags
Under the Eyes, Nape, Jowl, Ear Lobe, Thighs, Achilles Tendon,
Wrist, Hips, Eye, Blood, Semen, Cavities, Roof of the Mouth,
Middle Finger, Genitals, Skull, Spine, Coccyx, Blind Spot, Lymph,
Scar, Pelvis, Buttocks, Inner Ear, Goosepimples, Liver, Haunches,
Back of the Knee, Dimple, Sleep, Spleen, Fingertips, Armpit,
Uvula, Taste Buds, Spoor, Yawn, Tic, Nostrils, Blush, Halfgainer,
Halftwist, Spit ’n Image, Hands, Rice, Caul, Shadow, Bosoms,
Balls, Birthmark, Sound Made by Snapping the Fingers 267
Choosing 284
Goat & Boy 286
Five Ways Down Stringer’s Ridge 287
The Literal Snake 291
The Afterlife 292
The Oracle 295
Nickajack Cave 297
The Finger of Necessity 299
The Mule 300
The African Night Adder 301
The Flag Page 302
Taking a Nap Underneath My Desk 305
Keats 308
The Swim 309

Notes 311

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