Coming across the phenomenal words and verses of one of the greatest spiritual poets to ever live, is the ultimate dream for any poetry enthusiast. Coleman Barks’ translation of the mesmerizing works of the renowned 13th century poet Jelaluddin Rumi, in “The Essential Rumi” would surely do the part in making even the most uninterested person fall in love with Rumi’s poetry.
“The Essential Rumi” is an incredible collection of some of Rumi’s most amazing poems about love, soul’s yearnings, divinity, Sufism, spirituality and the bond of friendship with The One. Coleman has managed to make the world and all those who read his books fall in love with Rumi and the one whom he loved, by translating his soulful words in Persian to English, while preserving the beauty, and flow of spirituality that Rumi’s poetry embodies. It would be sufficing to say that most of Rumi’s poetry, composed of quatrains, odes, and letters within poems was based on his unconditional and mysterious love for the wandering dervish of Tabriz, Shams, whose desire and quest of soulful companionship led him to Rumi’s hometown, Konya. It was there where the two met and fell in love, but theirs is a unique story of love and friendship that cannot possibly be fathomed or described within words. Shams of Tabriz, a mere, poor, dervish of no repute managed to transform the renowned and respected religious scholar of Konya, Rumi, into a mystical artist and poet. After a lifelong, one-of-its-kind friendship, that was not without its social and religious controversies and ramifications, Shams’ murder and the tragic end to their tale inevitably drove Rumi to a state of agony, hysteria and disbelief until he realized that theirs was the bond that was eternal and divine. Following this realization, Rumi embarked upon a path to immortalize Shams’ words, and his wisdom through his poems. Till his death, Rumi never stopped writing poems in ode to Shams; his poetry became as eternal as his love for him, and erased from existence the very definitions of love, ecstasy, emptiness, the divine truth and the search for God, giving them a whole new meaning and perspective that very few, lucky souls could understand.
Infatuated by Rumi’s words, Coleman has managed to preserve his poems’ essence and do justice to his remarkable poetry in “The Essential Rumi”, while somehow making it easier to unveil the mystery that is Rumi’s school of thought and words, in the best way possible. Before reading the book, I was entirely convinced that I would never be able to comprehend what Rumi conveys through his words, but reading some of his most beautiful poems in this book has at least paved the way for me. I am sure for those who truly are interested in reading and understanding Rumi’s words, Coleman Barks’ translations would make the process a whole lot easier.