Chat Transcript: Coleman Barks on Rumi

The translator discusses his movie cameo, the heart of Rumi's message, and whether whirling makes him dizzy.

Beliefnet talked with Rumi expert Coleman Barks on May 24, 2001, on Yahoo.

Beliefnet Ellen: Welcome toBeliefnet's chat with Coleman Barks, premier translator of Rumi's poetry. Coleman will be talking about Rumi's passionate "love poems to God." His upcoming collection,"The Soul of Rumi," will be available in September 2001 fromHarperSanFrancisco.

Beliefnet Laura: Coleman, welcome!Thanks for joining us. Can you tell us briefly who Rumi is and why he's sopopular?

Coleman Barks: Rumi was a 13th-centurymystic. He is an artist, a poet--in the Islamic world, he is as honored asShakespeare is in our world. The central event in his life was hismeeting with Shams Tabriz. I've worked with scholars who knowPersian and they have helped me to translate Rumi's poems.

Question from blueblueface: Mr. Barks,welcome! We are so glad to have you...Mr. Barks, how much of the poems' successis Rumi, and how much is Barks? I mean when we get that "Rumishiver."


Coleman Barks: Blueblueface: I have noidea. There is some kind of a dance going on between my personal self and thisenlightened being. Whatever shiver of connection there is, is Rumi'sfault.

blueblueface: So many of Rumi's poems arelike a dance. How difficult was it for you to translate not only the words butthe feelings he evoked, into English?


Coleman Barks: Evidently, his poems were spoken spontaneously as he was in motion, in a turning motion. So the poems--at least in Persian--sure have that body-knowledge in them, that sense of being a conductor. I hope that some of that comes across in the English. It's only a hope. His poems do feel like songs and also like they have the motion of a body in them.

Question from Kris_Tina_819



Dr. Barks...Iwas in your Creative Writing class at UGA in '90 or so. I just wanted to letyou know I am teaching now and when we study poetry, I always introduce mystudents to Rumi and to YOU. They love you both.

Coleman Barks

: I appreciatethat.

Question from blueblueface: Rumi seemed tohave spent a lot of time in seclusion with his "friend." What werethey doing? Was he gay?

Coleman Barks: This question alwayscomes up. My sense is that the connection between Rumi and Shams was notsexual. They met in the heart and in the soul--and the conversation that theyhad, and the nature of it, is what we get some sense of from the poetry, but itremains a mystery.

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