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The Essential Rumi Publisher: HarperOne New Expanded Edition Paperback – 1997


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Product Details

  • Paperback
  • ASIN: B004TK2FJQ
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (54 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #3,676,267 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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4.7 out of 5 stars
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34 of 34 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on June 22, 1998
Format: Hardcover
This is one of the best books of poetry translations I've ever read. Barks has done a tremendous job of rendering Rumi into language that captures the poet's range: oblique to blunt, ethereal to earthy. While I can't comment on the accuracy of the translations, they work beautifully as English poetry -- and that, to me, is the crucial part. To Western readers, Rumi was a misty eminence of literary and religious history, and Barks has brought him to glorious, complex life.
One caution: although Rumi wrote intensely spiritual poetry, some of the "teaching tales" are pretty raunchy (after reading about the maidservant and the donkey, I'll never look at gourds the same way again!). Again, his poetry blends the divine and the human, heavenly love and earthly eroticism. While there are analogues in Western religious poetry (e.g., Teresa of Avila and the English 17th-century poet Richard Crashaw), this may be unsettling for some readers.
The hardbound edition, at least, is well done: the paper has a nice texture, the typography and page design enhance the text, and the cover is attractive (I haven't looked at the paperback). For me, the attractiveness of the book greatly enhanced the experience of reading it.
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22 of 22 people found the following review helpful By FrKurt Messick HALL OF FAMEVINE VOICE on November 13, 2005
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.
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22 of 23 people found the following review helpful By Bill L. on July 31, 2009
Format: Hardcover
Once and for all may the publishers stop calling Barks a translator. He is in his own right a fine poet but he has not translated Rumi from Persian or any other language.

The latest book from Ibrahim Gamard, "The Quatrains of Rumi" gives a fine example of excellent translation and scholarship. Buy both Barks and Gamard and make your own decisions on this important matter.
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22 of 24 people found the following review helpful By Brad McBride on January 2, 2001
Format: Hardcover
This book is a wonderful introduction to this very moving spiritual poetry. Rumi has an understanding of God and our relationship with Him that is unlike anything most people have ever experienced. His love and passion come across in this poetry, which has been beautifully translated by Coleman Barks. Mr. Barks has taken great lengths to group these poems into various sections that will allow a reader who is new to Rumi's poetry to see Rumi in a variety of ways. The book is not arranged chronologically or broken down into academic categories, but rather encompass larger topics ranging from bewilderment at God's presence to poems meant to teach. Each poem is carefully crafted to allow the thoughts of this master poet and mystic to shine. This is poetry of the first order. This book is the perfect introduction to Rumi or will complete the collection of any Rumi devotee.
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15 of 16 people found the following review helpful By Debbie A Chisolm on February 15, 2000
Format: Hardcover
The reading of this book has led me on many wonderful journeys. I found myself having to read slowly as the words were jumping from the lines, and I could spend hours journaling where they led. Love and lonliness, passion and pity, a hunger for God that both consoles and consumes, are all visited in this book. Read it slowly.
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17 of 19 people found the following review helpful By Mr. on May 1, 2001
Format: Hardcover
I was first aquainted with Rumi and the delightful Coleman Barks at a Jungian retreat. Rumi takes you into his inner world and his relationship with the divine (objective divine) and the divine spark he sees in others (most notably his "beloved"). I've read that it is impossible to translate Rumi's original sing-song ancient Persian into modern English, but Barks certainly does an eloquent job (at least that's what my Persian friends tell me). If you would like to understand true depth psychology or understand the mysteries of love, this is the essential guide.
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