It’s Valentines Day. Whether you love or hate the celebration, I thought a little Rumi was appropriate. If you’re unfamiliar with him, he was a Sufi mystic and poet, most noted for his extreme love and devotion towards his mentor Shams of Tabriz. NPR host, Jean Feraca, from Here on Earth had a whole discussion with Coleman Barks, one of the lead translators of Rumi’s poetry and a Sufi studier for over three decades. I absolutely encourage you to check out Jean’s site and listen to some podcasts of her programs; they are always very moving. While driving in the car today, I listened to caller after caller read their favorite Rumi poem, share how they knew Rumi, and why his work makes him the most beloved and best selling poet in America.
I first discovered Rumi through my sister. She learned about him in college and brought one of his books home for me to read knowing how much I liked poetry. I immediately devoured his words and watched a documentary about his life which interviews prominent Rumi translators and the differences these authors have on his works. It’s really interesting how one poet has inspired many others to interpret his work. Some is very proper and written in an older english style, while Coleman Barks brings about more of Rumi’s spirit in his translations, rather than a literal translation. I’ve returned to Rumi poems throughout my life at different times. Sitting by my parent’s garden, I read his love of the land poems. And when I was too young to know any better I read his love poems and yearned for the intense emotions he wrote of. Now, for Valentines Day, I share with you two different Rumi poems that I think are beautiful. Enjoy!
Do you have a story to share about Jalaluddin Rumi? Do you have a favorite Rumi poem? I’d love to hear it!
The Silent Articulation of a Face
Love comes with a knife, not some
shy question, and not with fears
for its reputation! I say
these things disinterestedly. Accept them
in kind. Love is a madman,
working his wild schemes, tearing off his clothes,
running through the mountains, drinking poison,
and now quietly choosing annihilation.
A tiny spider tries to wrap an enormous wasp.
Think of the spiderweb woven across the cave
where Muhammad slept! There are love stories,
and there is obliteration into love.
You’ve been walking the ocean’s edge,
holding up your robes to keep them dry.
You must dive naked under and deeper under,
a thousand times deeper! Love flows down.
The ground submits to the sky and suffers
what comes. Tell me, is the earth worse
for giving in like that?
Don’t put blankets over the drum!
Open completely. Let your spirit-ear
listen to the green dome’s passionate murmur.
Let the cords of your robe be untied.
Shiver in this new love beyond all
above and below. The sun rises, but which way
does night go? I have no more words.
Let soul speak with the silent
articulation of a face.
Some Kiss We Want
There is some kiss we want
with our whole lives, the touch
of spirit on the body. Seawater
begs the pearl to break its shell.
And the lily, how passionately
it needs some wild darling!
At night, I open the window and ask
the moon to come and press its
face against mine.
Breathe into me. Close
the language-door and open the love-window.
The moon won’t use the door,
only the window.
I love NPR. Almost every program peaks my interest. When I’m driving, listening in to Chapter-A-Day, or Dr. Zorba, or Here On Earth, or the late night radio show programs with old school sound effects (one of my faves!), I like to imagine what other people are doing while they’re listening in. I would imagine in today’s day and age, most are driving just like me. But then some might be making dinner, doing work outside, exercising at the gym, rocking a child to sleep.
Yesterday’s guest was author, Michael Perry. If you’ve never read his work, you must! If you’d like a recipe for country living, equal parts back woods advice and survival 101, you’ll find it in his work. His background as a male nurse, EMT, and volunteer firefighter who grew up in a very small town in Wisconsin gives him an unreal edge to describing catastrophe and humor in the same scene. One of his first works about his hometown is called Population: 485. I read it this last fall. Since that book, he has continued his story by writing about marriage and family life in Truck: A Love Story and Coop: A Family, A Farm, And the Pursuit of One Good Egg.
Throughout the conversation, Perry comes off as very likable, humble, and down to earth. He jokes about speaking engagements, and he sincerely thanks his fans (the pockets of them that come forth, he says). He really does a great job of promoting his work, without sounding like a PR agent. He has a website and blog about his work, and he says yes (cause he needs the money) to as many speaking arrangements as he can. But I loved his honesty and interest in what his readers, or in this case callers, had to say. He appreciated their input.
One caller flattered him immensely by saying he was asked what book he would recommend if you were going to lend a book to President Obama, and he answered Truck: A Love Story. The caller’s reasons were that “Truck” depicts the everyday man of rural living and he would want the president to remember the mid/working class individuals who were just getting by and not be completely consumed by the political world.
I kind of trailed off from the rest of the program for a bit, cause I kept thinking “What an interesting question!” What if you could give a book to the president? What book would you choose and why?
I think that’s really hard to answer. If I had to pick just one, and make it really good one, I’d say The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot. If ever there was a book that followed the generations of a family who struggled, and dealt with politics of race, class, education, and health care, this book is truly moving. I believe, and maybe I watched too many documentaries on Martin Luther King Day, but I really do believe that if we turn our eyes away from history, we are doomed to repeat ourselves. I think this story is one everyone should know.
What book would you recommend?