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Coleman Barks

Coleman Barks“Not since the popularity of The Prophet by Kahlil Gibran in the 1960s has a poet made such a dent in American culture. And if any one person could be said to be responsible for the Rumi renaissance it would have to be Coleman Barks.”
—The New York Times


I wait beside these poems with a kind of heart-listening. And it feels right to acknowledge that although I am working on the words of an enlightened being, I am not one. If I were in the station of Rumi and Shams, I’d probably be spontaneously making my own anonymous poetry. I'm not the cook, more a strangely elated waiter bringing out dishes. I hope I am at times to be the empty screen on which Rumi’s joy and grief can play. These poems are beyond me. That's why I love working on them. They draw me where I have to go.

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.

From The Soul of Rumi by Coleman Barks

COLEMAN BARKS was born and raised in Chattanooga, Tennessee, and was educated at the University of North Carolina and the University of California at Berkeley. He taught poetry and creative writing at the University of Georgia for thirty years. He is the author of numerous Rumi translations and has been a student of Sufism since 1977. His work with Rumi was the subject of an hour-long segment in Bill Moyers's Language of Life series on PBS, and he is a featured poet and translator in Bill Moyers's poetry special, "Fooling with Words."


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