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A collection of never-before-translated poems by the widely beloved medieval Persian poet Rumi.
Rumi (1207-1273) was trained in Sufism--a mystic tradition within Islam--and founded the Sufi order known to us as the Whirling Dervishes, who use dance and music as part of their spiritual devotion. Rumi's poetry has long been popular with contemporary Western audiences because of the way it combines the sacred and the sensual, describing divine love in rapturously human terms.
However, a number of Rumi's English translators over the past century were not speakers of Persian and they based their sometimes very free interpretations on earlier translations. With Western audiences in mind, translators also tended to tone down or leave out elements of Persian culture and of Islam in Rumi's work, and hundreds of the prolific poet's works were never made available to English speakers at all. In this new translation -- composed almost entirely of untranslated gems from Rumi's vast ouevre -- Brad Gooch and Maryam Mortaz aim to achieve greater fidelity to the originals while still allowing Rumi's lyric exuberance to shine.
With millions of copies of the 13th-century Sufi mystic poet's work sold worldwide, this new book containing many first-time translations will find a ready audience. While the love poems resemble the erotic verse popularized by previous editors ("Again my eyes saw what no eyes have seen./ Again my master returned ecstatic and drunk"), several new poems stand out in their foregrounding of Rumi's religious descent. "Why make a quibla of these questions and answers?/ Ask instead, the lesson of the silent ones, where is it?" one of the book's many ghazals proposes, referring to the direction Muslims face in prayer. The Koran figures throughout: "Let me swear an oath on Osman's holy book,/ The pearl of that beloved, gleaming in Damascus," reminding contemporary readers of the centrality of Islam to Rumi's worldview, even if, finally, what Gooch calls a "religion of love" carries the day: "Someone is snipped away, and I am sewn to another,/ Stitched together, forever, seamlessly." Offering new insight into the poet's spiritual life, these poems prove a valuable addition to Rumi's oeuvre.