Coleman Barks and Rumi — What a Few Lines of Poetry (and a Witch) Taught me

By Barbara Falconer Newhall

Coleman Barks is a nice guy. And a southerner at that. He’s the amazing artist who’s been translating Rumi’s poetry for decades now. I’d always imagined Barks to be a stern scholarly type — till I emailed him for permission to use a few lines from his Rumi translations in my book.

To my surprise, Barks got back to me in no time with — sure, no problem.

Yesterday I googled him and found this video. And there he was, a kindly southern gentleman type, complete with a bit of a drawl, an open face, and totally immersed in — and amazed by — the Sufi mystic’s world view.

Persian Poet, Southern Gentleman, American Witch

The video gives you just a whiff of the 13th century Persian poet — and the 21st century Southern gentlemen.

I like Coleman Barks, what little I know of him. And maybe if I spent some focused time with Rumi, I too would be more of a mensch.

For those of you who have a copy of Wrestling with God, look for Rumi on page 118. There, Wiccan Cerridwen Fallingstar tells of embracing his poem, “The Dream That Must Be Interpreted” in hopes of coming to terms with the death of her husband and her unborn daughter within a week of each other.

“Whatever God is,” Cerridwen concludes, “it’s something that doesn’t operate the way we do.”

Cover art

“The Essential Rumi,” new expanded edition, Coleman Barks, trans, Harper Collins, 2010.














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