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The Essential Rumi [Paperback]

Jelaluddin Rumi , Coleman Barks
4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (16 customer reviews)

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Book Description

2 Sep 1999
Rumi the Persian poet is widely acknowledged as being the greatest Sufi mystic of his age. He was the founder of the brotherhood of the Whirling Dervishes. This is a collection of his poetry.


Product details

  • Paperback: 336 pages
  • Publisher: Arkana; New edition edition (2 Sep 1999)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0140195793
  • ISBN-13: 978-0140195798
  • Product Dimensions: 19.6 x 12.7 x 2 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (16 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 592,765 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Amazon Review

No translator could do greater justice to the gorgeous simplicity of Rumi's poetry than Coleman Barks has done here. These exquisite renderings of the 13th-century Persian mystic's words into modern free verse capture all the "inner searching, the delicacy, and simple groundedness" that characterise Rumi's poetry while remaining faithful to the images, tone and spiritual message of the originals. Barks's introductions to each of the 27 sections (described as "playful palimpsests spread over Rumi's imagination", and "meant to confuse scholars who would divide Rumi's poetry into the accepted categories") are themselves wonderful achievements of a poetic imagination; searching explanations of unfamiliar concepts and funny stories provide colourful background and frame the selections as no dry historical exegesis could.

While Barks's stamp on this collection is clear, it in no way interferes with the poems themselves; Rumi's voice leaps off these pages with an ecstatic energy that leaves readers breathless. There are poems of love, rage, sadness, pleading and longing; passionate outbursts about the torture of yearning for his beloved and the sweet pleasure that comes from their union; amusing stories of sexual exploits or human weakness; and quiet truths about the beauty and variety of human emotion. More than anything, Rumi makes plain the unbridled joy that comes from living life fully, urging us always to put aside our fears and take the risk to do so. As he says: "The way of love is not / a subtle argument. / The door there is devastation. / Birds make great sky-circles / of their freedom. / How do they learn it? / They fall, and falling, / they're given wings." --Uma Kukathas

About the Author

Rumi was a thirteenth century Persian philosopher. --This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.

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In the tavern are many wines-the wine of delight in color and form and taste, the wine of the intellect's agility, the fine port of stories, and the cabernet of soul singing. Read the first page
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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
25 of 25 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Poetic enlightenment 22 Nov 2005
By Kurt Messick HALL OF FAME
Format:Hardcover
Rumi (as he is known in the West), was known as Jelaluddin Balkhi by the Persians and Afghanis, from where he was born in 1207. Rumi means 'from Roman Anatolia', which is where his family fled to avoid the threat of Mongol armies. Being raised in a theological family, Rumi studied extensively in religion and poetry, until encountering Shams of Tabriz, a wandering mystic, with whom he formed the first of his intense, mystical friendships, so intense that it inspired jealously among Rumi's students and family. Shams eventually disappeared (most likely murdered because of the jealousy); Rumi formed later more mystical friendships, each with a different quality, which seemed essential for Rumi's creative output. Rumi was involved with the mystical tradition that continues to this day of the dervish (whirling dervishes are best known), and used it as a personal practice and as a teaching tool.
This book has a deliberate task: 'The design of this book is meant to confuse scholars who would divide Rumi's poetry into the accepted categories.' Barks and Moyne have endeavoured to put together a unified picture that playfully spans the breadth of Rumi's imagination, without resorting to scholarly pigeon-holes and categorisations.
'All of which makes the point that these poems are not monumental in the Western sense of memorialising moments; they are not discrete entities but a fluid, continuously self-revising, self-interrupting medium.'
Rumi created these poems as part of a constant, growing conversation with a dervish learning community. It flows from esoteric to mundane, from ecstatic to banal, incorporating music and movement at some points, and not at others, with the occasional batch of prose.
Read more ›
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11 of 11 people found the following review helpful
By A Customer
Format:Hardcover
Whether you're contemplating Rumi in a meadow or while stuck in traffic, his eloquence reaches across the centuries to move you.
I highly recommend this book for anyone just beginning their study. The introduction and accompanying editorial comments provide a starting point for personal perspective.
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11 of 11 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Incredible 8 Nov 2006
By Spinoza
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
True, Coleman Barks does not speak Persian or Arabic. And he is the first to admit that his is not a literal translation. Instead, Barks has worked with translations into Turkish, intended to preserve the spirit of Rumi's poetry, and in has aimed to do the same. In this, I feel he has had phenomenal success.

This collection truly transmits the power and energy of Rumi's inspiration- invoking Plato's image (in the Ion) of the magnet as the muse, and the poet as the first iron ring attached to the magnet, absorbing its force, and transmitting the same force to the audience further along the line. I think this book brings strengthens the current for the English speaking audience, and hence channels a greater amount of the inspiration which makes Rumi's poetry so remarkable.

Not one for stuffy academics, but this book will touch your soul if you open to it.
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12 of 13 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Poetic enlightenment 21 Dec 2005
By Kurt Messick HALL OF FAME
Format:Paperback
Rumi (as he is known in the West), was known as Jelaluddin Balkhi by the Persians and Afghanis, from where he was born in 1207. Rumi means 'from Roman Anatolia', which is where his family fled to avoid the threat of Mongol armies. Being raised in a theological family, Rumi studied extensively in religion and poetry, until encountering Shams of Tabriz, a wandering mystic, with whom he formed the first of his intense, mystical friendships, so intense that it inspired jealously among Rumi's students and family. Shams eventually disappeared (most likely murdered because of the jealousy); Rumi formed later more mystical friendships, each with a different quality, which seemed essential for Rumi's creative output. Rumi was involved with the mystical tradition that continues to this day of the dervish (whirling dervishes are best known), and used it as a personal practice and as a teaching tool.
This book has a deliberate task: 'The design of this book is meant to confuse scholars who would divide Rumi's poetry into the accepted categories.' Barks and Moyne have endeavoured to put together a unified picture that playfully spans the breadth of Rumi's imagination, without resorting to scholarly pigeon-holes and categorisations.
'All of which makes the point that these poems are not monumental in the Western sense of memorialising moments; they are not discrete entities but a fluid, continuously self-revising, self-interrupting medium.'
Rumi created these poems as part of a constant, growing conversation with a dervish learning community. It flows from esoteric to mundane, from ecstatic to banal, incorporating music and movement at some points, and not at others, with the occasional batch of prose.
'Some go first, and others come long afterward.
Read more ›
Comment | 
Was this review helpful to you?
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Poetic enlightenment 21 Dec 2005
By Kurt Messick HALL OF FAME
Format:Paperback
Rumi (as he is known in the West), was known as Jelaluddin Balkhi by the Persians and Afghanis, from where he was born in 1207. Rumi means 'from Roman Anatolia', which is where his family fled to avoid the threat of Mongol armies. Being raised in a theological family, Rumi studied extensively in religion and poetry, until encountering Shams of Tabriz, a wandering mystic, with whom he formed the first of his intense, mystical friendships, so intense that it inspired jealously among Rumi's students and family. Shams eventually disappeared (most likely murdered because of the jealousy); Rumi formed later more mystical friendships, each with a different quality, which seemed essential for Rumi's creative output. Rumi was involved with the mystical tradition that continues to this day of the dervish (whirling dervishes are best known), and used it as a personal practice and as a teaching tool.
This book has a deliberate task: 'The design of this book is meant to confuse scholars who would divide Rumi's poetry into the accepted categories.' Barks and Moyne have endeavoured to put together a unified picture that playfully spans the breadth of Rumi's imagination, without resorting to scholarly pigeon-holes and categorisations.
'All of which makes the point that these poems are not monumental in the Western sense of memorialising moments; they are not discrete entities but a fluid, continuously self-revising, self-interrupting medium.'
Rumi created these poems as part of a constant, growing conversation with a dervish learning community. It flows from esoteric to mundane, from ecstatic to banal, incorporating music and movement at some points, and not at others, with the occasional batch of prose.
'Some go first, and others come long afterward.
Read more ›
Comment | 
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Beautiful, challenging and memorable
My first introduction to Rumi - beautiful, challenging and memorable - amazing to think he wrote this over 700 years ago
Published 2 months ago by stephen
4.0 out of 5 stars Rumi
I love Rumi and really enjoy dipping in and out of this book.
There is wonderful wisdom in these poems and Rumi has a big following.
Published 5 months ago by Patrick Early
4.0 out of 5 stars See also translations by Shamam Shiva.
Although we cannot all read Rumi in the original language the sense of the poems is more than enough. It also worth looking at the translations by by Shaham Shiva.
Published 9 months ago by Howard O Faircloth
4.0 out of 5 stars Rumi is a fascination - exquisite poetry
A lovely book - anyone who likes Rumi will love this book. The cover is quite lovely and I`d recommend it to friends
Published 13 months ago by Maureen Bold
5.0 out of 5 stars Selected Poems (Penguin Classics)
heard so much about Rumi so i decided to purchase some of these books & as a first time reader on Rumis works i've got to say these books are very heart touching & inspirational, a... Read more
Published 18 months ago by Naz
5.0 out of 5 stars Magic Poems
I just had started to read the Rumi peoms. The books sounds very interesting and stunning cause I love spiritual, religious stuff. I love it!
Published on 5 Mar 2012 by Princess Noor Al-Huda
3.0 out of 5 stars Persian Sufi poetry
To capture the true essence of Rumi's poetry in English is impossible. This translation ,however, is very good.
Published on 23 July 2010 by Jila
3.0 out of 5 stars Not easy to read
Not the best Rumi stuff out there, and listen if this is your first introduction to this great master you'd do better to get another Rumi book.
Published on 19 Jun 2007 by Ms. J. Lueders
1.0 out of 5 stars Agreed
This is a poor collection.....
Try the translations by Maryam Mafi and Azima Melita Kolin - Whispers of the Beloved and Gardens of the Beloved - they are a million times more... Read more
Published on 5 Oct 2005 by DelWij
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