Rumi: The Book of Love: Poems of Ecstasy and Longingby Rumi, Coleman Barks
The Sufi mystic and poet Jalaluddin Rumi is most beloved for his poems expressing the ecstasies and mysteries of love in all its forms—erotic, platonic, divine—and Coleman Barks presents the best of them in this delightful and inspiring collection. Rendered with freshness, intensity, and beauty as Barks alone can do, these startling and rich poems range
The Sufi mystic and poet Jalaluddin Rumi is most beloved for his poems expressing the ecstasies and mysteries of love in all its forms—erotic, platonic, divine—and Coleman Barks presents the best of them in this delightful and inspiring collection. Rendered with freshness, intensity, and beauty as Barks alone can do, these startling and rich poems range from the "wholeness" one experiences with a true lover, to the grief of a lover's loss, and all the states in between: from the madness of sudden love to the shifting of a romance to deep friendship to the immersion in divine love. Rumi, the ultimate poet of love, explores all "the magnificent regions of the heart," and he opens you to the lover within. Coleman Barks has made this medieval, Persian-born (present-day Afghanistan) poetic and spiritual genius the most popular poet in America today. This seductive volume reveals Rumi's charms and depths more than any other.
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Rumi: The Book of Love
Poems of Ecstasy and Longing
1. Spontaneous Wandering
I take down my King James to look up the passage about love (charity) in 1 Corinthians 13. There is a tiny red ant living in Corinth. It walks to the top and along the gold edges. Spontaneous wandering is a favorite region of the heart. It may look like mindless drift, but it isn't. More the good Don and Sancho out for their inspired adventures, quixotic and panzaic. The ant is my teacher.
We see through a glass darkly, then face-to-face. A more polished mirror shows us who we truly are. The wandering of Rumi's poetry is a model for the soul's lovely motions. When thirst begins to look for water, water has already started out with a canteen, looking for thirst. Love feels like sliding along the eddies and currents of the tao.
Pir Vilayat Khan recently commented to me, "Your first Rumi volumes seemed very sexual." He's right. There is too much of that energy in the first work with Rumi I did, especially in some of the quatrains. I was very wet with such water at the time myself. I was thirty-nine. Now I'm sixty-five. Things change; nothing wrong with that. What's truly alive is always changing.
Gay lovers hear Rumi's poetry as gay. I don't agree, though I'm certainly guilty of previously loading Rumi's poetry with erotic fruit. I don't do that now. Rumi is way happier than sex and orgasms, his wandering more conscious and free. See "Imra'u 'l-Qays" in the next section. Rumi and Shams wander in that country.
Perhaps the purest wanderer of our time is Nanao, like Basho in his. Gary Snyder says about him,
This subtropical East China Sea carpenter and spear fisherman finds himself equally at home in the desert. So much so that on one occasion when an eminent traditional Buddhist priest boasted of his lineage, Nanao responded, "I need no lineage. I am desert rat." But for all his independence Nanao Sakaki carries the karma of Chungtzu, En-no-gyoja, Saigyo, Ikkyu, Basho, and Issa in his bindle. His work or play in the world is to pull out nails, free seized nuts, break loose the rusted, open up the shutters. You can put these poems in your shoes and walk a thousand miles.
Go with Muddy FeetWhen you hear dirty story
wash your ears.
When you see ugly stuff
wash your eyes.
When you get bad thoughts
wash your mind.
Keep your feet muddy.
-- Nanao Sakaki
Excuse my wandering.
How can one be orderly with this?
It's like counting leaves in a garden,
along with the song notes of partridges,
and crows. Sometimes organization
and computation become absurd.
I have five things to say,
five fingers to give into your grace.
First, when I was apart from you,
this world did not exist, nor any other.
Second, whatever I was looking for
was always you.
Third, why did I ever learn to count to three?
Fourth, my cornfield is burning!
Fifth, this finger stands for Rabia,
and this is for someone else.
Is there a difference?
Are these words or tears?
Is weeping speech?
What shall I do, my love?
So the lover speaks, and everyone around
begins to cry with him, laughing crazily,
moaning in the spreading union
of lover and beloved.
This is the true religion. All others
are thrown-away bandages beside it.
This is the sema of slavery and mastery
dancing together. This is not-being.
I know these dancers.
Day and night I sing their songs
in this phenomenal cage.
Poems of Ecstasy and Longing. Copyright © by Coleman Barks. Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. Available now wherever books are sold.
Meet the Author
Coleman Barks is a renowned poet and the bestselling author of The Essential Rumi, Rumi: The Big Red Book, The Soul of Rumi, Rumi: The Book of Love, and The Drowned Book. He was prominently featured in both of Bill Moyers' PBS television series on poetry, The Language of Life and Fooling with Words. He taught English and poetry at the University of Georgia for thirty years, and he now focuses on writing, readings, and performances.
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