Whether you are new to Rumi or a devotee, whether you are a seeker of truth and wisdom, or you would simply enjoy a book of wonderful poetry, this is a book you should buy.
First if all, I should explain that I love Rumi and recite Rumi, and do it well enough, that listeners often ask me which book should be chosen. Since the publication of The Soul of Rumi, I find myself saying that if one were to choose two books that are the best of Rumi, the first is the Soul of Rumi, and the second is the Illuminated Rumi. Coleman Barks translations of Rumi have a spirit and beauty that truly reflect Rumi's vision and clarity. Coleman's accompanying dialogues give us a glimpse into Rumi, 13th century Turkey, and Shams, Rumi's mystical friend and teacher.
Coleman makes it easy to understand Rumi's poetry; not just as a translation from the 13 century, but for the wisdom and guidance it offers to all of us, living in the 21st century. The poems in the section on Human Grief were one of the ways I managed to get through this last September.
What is most wonderful for lovers of Rumi, is the order and sections that Coleman chose in this book. This presentation is a wonderful format to help the reader understand the passion and the soul of Rumi. The sections are divided into `wisdom categories' (my interpretation). The names of the sections communicate the viability of Rumi for today's important life questions. For example, "Living as Evidence", and "The Banquet - This is Enough was Always True", and "The Joke of Materialism". Some sections reflect Sufi concepts like Fana (Dissolving beyond doubt..) and Baqa (reentry into the world, " the Arabic word for living within, ...life lived with clarity and reason, ...the absorbing work of this day"). And for those of us, like myself, who recite Rumi, it is very helpful to have the arrangement by what, in effect, is topics. This book offers insight into Sufism, which in turn can help in the understanding of Islam. But as always, Coleman skirts the links of Rumi's poetry to a particular belief system, and in so doing, keeps Rumi's message in a form most appropriate for today. Rumi himself claimed he bore no label - "Not Christian, Jew or Muslim, not Hindu, Buddist, Sufi or Zen".
And there are so many poems that even I, who usually would sit and devour a Coleman Barks translation, in a day, must go slowly, must savor every moment; and I am so grateful to Coleman for his work and his gift of the Soul of Rumi.
Buy a few copies, the book is beautiful and would make a great gift.