Come, gather round, and relish the ecstatic love poems of Rumi, the thirteenth century Sufi mystic, currently the most popular poet in America. His spellbinding words offer a powerful antidote to the soul-sickness of our times. Coleman Barks over the years has proven to be an imaginative, daring, and enthusiastic translator and interpreter of Rumi. This dazzling collection challenges us to appreciate the multi-splendored nuances of the way of love.
Barks puts it this way in one of his pensive interludes: "We are all writing the book of love. Everything goes in. All the particles of the world are in love and looking for lovers. Pieces of straw tremble in the presence of amber. Isn't that the deal? We're here to love each other, to deepen and unfold that capacity, to open the heart." Stay awake or you'll miss all the magic and the magnificence.
In "What Hurts the Soul," Rumi reminds us: "Love is the way messengers / from the mystery tell us things." The chapter headings signal the many vehicles of the Beloved-wandering, grief, tavern madness, absence, animal energies, friendship. There is rigor here as well as great playfulness. Rumi really mixes it up.
Love flows and grows through emptiness, surrender, and silence. But God, as Rumi spells out in "The Stupid Things I've Done," can also make glories "from the fertilizer of sinning." Barks quotes the Sufi master: "Our loving is the way God's secret gets told!" Now there's something to take to heart!
Perhaps Rumi: The Book of Love should come with this warning: Read these incendiary poems at your own peril. You might find yourself devoting all of your energies to the fires of love. Your heart might open unspeakably wide and you will discover that you are in the company of the mystic lovers of God, filled with gratitude and exuberance beyond your wildest imagining.