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Book Review: The Essential Rumi (Poems by Rumi, Translated by Coleman Barks)

Poetry is fascinating because it has simplicity in depth and depth in simplicity. True, not all poets manage to do that with every poem. An exception I can think of is the great Gulzar sir. I found that in his recent collection. One who brings the latter definition is Rumi.

Jalaluddin Rumi was a Persian poet. I got introduced to his writings mainly through the verses shared by my friends, which endeared me and made me look for more verses or quotes of his. I found many. One such verse which charmed me was

“Raise your words, not voice. It is rain that grows flowers, not thunder.” ― Rumi

If he could enchant my muse with a quote, I wondered what a book of his verses would do. It was Godsend perhaps that that day, my friend asked me for a wishlist. I gave her this book, and it was granted. And yes, I was quite taken by the poetry of Rumi as I read it. How simply he puts them at times. It makes me think, “How come I didn’t realize that before reading?”

Let me give you an example of one from this book.

I am so small, I can barely be seen.
How can this great love be inside me?
Look at your eyes. They are small,
but they see enormous things.

A verse… the first two lines of it asking a question, and the second replying to the question. It makes me think. Who asks the question, and is Rumi giving the answer? Or could it be that I’m asking the question, and after some pondering, my own heart gives me the answer? And if it is so, how come I didn’t see it before? Where was I looking?

The book is not just poetry, but philosophy as well. And it appeals to my sense of poetry and thought. Yes, there are some that go over my head too, but most of the poems in this collection are possible to follow if I give it a bit of thought. I wouldn’t say they are extremely likeable, sometimes I just move on to the next, but like every poetry book, I savor this slowly too. There’s no way I can be a poet like Rumi, but I can aspire to be.

The Bookworm Rates This: 4/5
The Bookworm Rates This: 4/5
Book Details
Title: The Essential Rumi
Author(s): Rumi
Translator: Coleman Barks
Genre: Poetry
ISBN/ASIN: 9780140449532 Publisher: Penguin Classics
No. of Pages: 310 Price: INR. 350

I own a copy of the book. The views expressed here are my own, frank and uninfluenced.

(© 21st April 2015)



Poetry and writing are to me, a breath of fresh air in a life that is sometimes covered by the smoke of sorrow or self doubt. They also become the sweets I share to celebrate when life offers me a reason to. But most of all, they are to me, my life. For each word I write is a piece of my heart, a thought that just had to find its way into the world.

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