You Should Read This: The Essential Rumi (Coleman Barks translation)

Picture of 13th century ecstatic poet Rumi, illustrating blog post about his work by speculative fiction writer Cat Rambo.

He was not bits of husk, or a puddle that freezes overnight or a comb that cracks when you use it, or a pod crushed open on the ground. He was fine powder in a rough clay dish. He knew what both worlds were worth: a grain of barley.

I first discovered Rumi’s work when I was in graduate school. It spoke to me in a way that few other poems had, seeming to pluck out the questions I had and showing me that the answer was already there.

What:Translation is an art form, and Coleman Barks’ translation does the poet justice. Rumi was a 13th century Persian mystic poet who may well be the most popular poet in America, given how often lines of his poetry show up on Pinterest.

Stop acting so small. You are the universe in ecstatic motion. -Rumi

Rumi may be the most pinned poet of all time.

Who: I cannot think of anyone who would not benefit from this book, particularly if you like poetry.

Why: Read this if you’re interested in simple language presenting wild and wonderful ecstasy. Read it if you’re wondering where you belong in the world or what you should be doing in it. Read it for lines that will linger with you.

When: Read this when you are first falling in or out of love. Read it when your soul is thirsty.

Where and how: Read this in intervals, taking time to savor each piece and turn it over in your head.


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About Cat

Cat Rambo lives, writes, and teaches by the shores of an eagle-haunted lake in the Pacific Northwest. Her 200+ fiction publications include stories in Asimov's, Clarkesworld Magazine, and the magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction. Her story, "Five Ways to Fall in Love on Planet Porcelain," from her collection Near + Far (Hydra House Books), was a 2012 Nebula nominee. Her editorship of Fantasy Magazine earned her a World Fantasy Award nomination in 2012. She is the current President of the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America (SFWA). She is currently working on Exiles of Tabat, the third book of the Tabat Quartet. A new story collection, Neither Here Nor There, appears from Hydra House this fall.
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