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Rumi: The Book of Love

Poems of Ecstasy and Longing

Rumi: The Book of Love by Coleman Barks
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The Sufi mystic and poet Jalaluddin Rumi is most beloved for his poems expressing the ecstasies and mysteries of love in all its forms—erotic, platonic, divine—and Coleman Barks presents the best of them in this delightful and inspiring collection. Rendered with freshness, intensity, and beauty as Barks alone can do, these startling and rich poems range from the "wholeness" one experiences with a true lover, to the grief of a lover's loss, and all the states in between: from the madness of sudden love to the shifting of a romance to deep friendship to the immersion in divine love. Rumi, the ultimate poet of love, explores all "the magnificent regions of the heart," and he opens you to the lover within. Coleman Barks has made this medieval, Persian-born (present-day Afghanistan) poetic and spiritual genius the most popular poet in America today. This seductive volume reveals Rumi's charms and depths more than any other.

HarperCollins; October 2009
240 pages; ISBN 9780061753404
Read online, or download in secure EPUB
Title: Rumi: The Book of Love
Author: Coleman Barks

1. Spontaneous Wandering

I take down my King James to look up the passage about love (charity) in 1 Corinthians 13. There is a tiny red ant living in Corinth. It walks to the top and along the gold edges. Spontaneous wandering is a favorite region of the heart. It may look like mindless drift, but it isn't. More the good Don and Sancho out for their inspired adventures, quixotic and panzaic. The ant is my teacher.

We see through a glass darkly, then face-to-face. A more polished mirror shows us who we truly are. The wandering of Rumi's poetry is a model for the soul's lovely motions. When thirst begins to look for water, water has already started out with a canteen, looking for thirst. Love feels like sliding along the eddies and currents of the tao.

Pir Vilayat Khan recently commented to me, "Your first Rumi volumes seemed very sexual." He's right. There is too much of that energy in the first work with Rumi I did, especially in some of the quatrains. I was very wet with such water at the time myself. I was thirty-nine. Now I'm sixty-five. Things change; nothing wrong with that. What's truly alive is always changing.

Gay lovers hear Rumi's poetry as gay. I don't agree, though I'm certainly guilty of previously loading Rumi's poetry with erotic fruit. I don't do that now. Rumi is way happier than sex and orgasms, his wandering more conscious and free. See "Imra'u 'l-Qays" in the next section. Rumi and Shams wander in that country.

Perhaps the purest wanderer of our time is Nanao, like Basho in his. Gary Snyder says about him,

This subtropical East China Sea carpenter and spear fisherman finds himself equally at home in the desert. So much so that on one occasion when an eminent traditional Buddhist priest boasted of his lineage, Nanao responded, "I need no lineage. I am desert rat." But for all his independence Nanao Sakaki carries the karma of Chungtzu, En-no-gyoja, Saigyo, Ikkyu, Basho, and Issa in his bindle. His work or play in the world is to pull out nails, free seized nuts, break loose the rusted, open up the shutters. You can put these poems in your shoes and walk a thousand miles.

Go with Muddy Feet

When you hear dirty story

wash your ears.

When you see ugly stuff

wash your eyes.

When you get bad thoughts

wash your mind.


Keep your feet muddy.

-- Nanao Sakaki

Excuse my wandering.

How can one be orderly with this?

It's like counting leaves in a garden,

along with the song notes of partridges,

and crows. Sometimes organization

and computation become absurd.

Five Things

I have five things to say,

five fingers to give into your grace.

First, when I was apart from you,

this world did not exist, nor any other.

Second, whatever I was looking for

was always you.

Third, why did I ever learn to count to three?

Fourth, my cornfield is burning!

Fifth, this finger stands for Rabia,

and this is for someone else.

Is there a difference?

Are these words or tears?

Is weeping speech?

What shall I do, my love?

So the lover speaks, and everyone around

begins to cry with him, laughing crazily,

moaning in the spreading union

of lover and beloved.

This is the true religion. All others

are thrown-away bandages beside it.

This is the sema of slavery and mastery

dancing together. This is not-being.

I know these dancers.

Day and night I sing their songs

in this phenomenal cage.

  • News
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Tue, 23 Oct 2007 08:14:22 -0700
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University of Tehran to grant honorary doctorate to Coleman Barks - Payvand
Thu, 11 May 2006 08:17:17 -0700
PayvandUniversity of Tehran to grant honorary doctorate to Coleman BarksPayvandTEHRAN, May 8 (Mehr News Agency) -- The ...