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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Meditation in Book Form
One does not read this book lightly. Reading the words of Rumi is like meditation in the form of a book. Beautiful, capable of multiple meanings depending on your need, but also of those intended. Essential for anyone interested in poetry or philosophy, God or love, and all of the above.
Published on Dec 26 2002 by J Osorio

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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Look elsewhere for Rumi's essence.
This pretty book of verse calls well-deserved attention to Jalaluddin Rumi, a 13th-century mystic considered by many to be one of the greatest poets the world has ever seen. But while author Coleman Barks's intentions may be the best, it's doubtful that what he serves up here is the essential Rumi, if only because Barks speaks not a word of Persian, the language in...
Published on Nov. 16 1999


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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Look elsewhere for Rumi's essence., Nov. 16 1999
By A Customer
This review is from: The Essential Rumi - Reissue: New Expanded Edition (Paperback)
This pretty book of verse calls well-deserved attention to Jalaluddin Rumi, a 13th-century mystic considered by many to be one of the greatest poets the world has ever seen. But while author Coleman Barks's intentions may be the best, it's doubtful that what he serves up here is the essential Rumi, if only because Barks speaks not a word of Persian, the language in which Rumi wrote. Barks freely admits that he relied entirely on academic translations to concoct his popularized renderings. This would be less of a handicap were Rumi merely trying to entertain or to convey feelings, moods and subjective impressions. But as Barks himself points out, Rumi was a Sufi; and Sufis maintain that, far from being the emotional outpourings appearance might suggest, their poems are actually precise and carefully constructed technical instruments designed to have very specific effects on the reader under the right circumstances. These effects, which depend heavily upon the language in which the poems were written (not to mention the specific audience they were written for, which is another matter entirely), are easily blunted by translation and other forms of tampering. Barks - in translating translations - would seem to be carrying this tampering a step further, despite his skill as a wordsmith. The result, however aesthetically pleasing and emotionally evocative, is unlikely to be what Rumi had in mind - any more than the miming of a surgeon's hand-movements, however gracefully executed, is likely to heal the sick. Those interested in Rumi's essential - and still relevant - message would do better to read THE SUFIS by Idries Shah, THE LIFE & WORK OF JALALUDDIN RUMI by Afzal Iqbal, or E.H. Whinfield's TEACHINGS OF RUMI.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Meditation in Book Form, Dec 26 2002
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This review is from: The Essential Rumi - Reissue: New Expanded Edition (Paperback)
One does not read this book lightly. Reading the words of Rumi is like meditation in the form of a book. Beautiful, capable of multiple meanings depending on your need, but also of those intended. Essential for anyone interested in poetry or philosophy, God or love, and all of the above.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Poetic Enlightenment, June 7 2003
By 
FrKurt Messick "FrKurt Messick" (Bloomington, IN USA) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: The Essential Rumi - Reissue: New Expanded Edition (Paperback)
Rumi (as he is known in the West), was known as Jelaluddin Balkhi by the Persians and Afghanis, from where he was born in 1207. Rumi means 'from Roman Anatolia', which is where his family fled to avoid the threat of Mongol armies. Being raised in a theological family, Rumi studied extensively in religion and poetry, until encountering Shams of Tabriz, a wandering mystic, with whom he formed the first of his intense, mystical friendships, so intense that it inspired jealously among Rumi's students and family. Shams eventually disappeared (most likely murdered because of the jealousy); Rumi formed later more mystical friendships, each with a different quality, which seemed essential for Rumi's creative output. Rumi was involved with the mystical tradition that continues to this day of the dervish (whirling dervishes are best known), and used it as a personal practice and as a teaching tool.
This book has a deliberate task: 'The design of this book is meant to confuse scholars who would divide Rumi's poetry into the accepted categories.' Barks and Moyne have endeavoured to put together a unified picture that playfully spans the breadth of Rumi's imagination, without resorting to scholarly pigeon-holes and categorisations.
'All of which makes the point that these poems are not monumental in the Western sense of memorialising moments; they are not discrete entities but a fluid, continuously self-revising, self-interrupting medium.'
Rumi created these poems as part of a constant, growing conversation with a dervish learning community. It flows from esoteric to mundane, from ecstatic to banal, incorporating music and movement at some points, and not at others, with the occasional batch of prose.
'Some go first, and others come long afterward. God blesses both and all in the line, and replaces what has been consumed, and provides for those who work the soil of helpfulness, and blesses Muhammad and Jesus and every other messenger and prophet. Amen, and may the Lord of all created beings bless you.'
From the lofty sentiments...
'There's a strange frenzy in my head,
of birds flying,
each particle circulating on its own.
Is the one I love everywhere?'
...to the simple observations...
'Drunks fear the police,
but the police are drunks too.
People in this town love them both
like different chess pieces.'
Some poems take very mystic frameworks, such as the Sohbet. There is no easy English translation of Sohbet, save that it comes close to meaning 'mystical conversation on mystical subjects'. These poems become mystically Socratic, by a series of questions and answers, very simple on the surface, yet leading down to the depths of meaning.
In the middle of the night
I cried out,
"Who lives in this love
I have?"
You said, "I do, but I'm not here
alone. Why are these other images
with me?"
Rumi also has an elegant series called the Solomon Poems, in which King Solomon is the embodiment of luminous divine wisdom, and the Queen of Sheba is the bodily soul. This sets up a dynamic tension that gets played out in the poetry (in extrapolation from the Biblical stories from which they were first derived)
Rumi reminds us that, in the face of love and truth, even the wisdom of Plato and Solomon can go blind, but there is vision in this blindness.
In the conclusion of this volume, Rumi's poetry of The Turn (the dervishes) is presented, as a place of emptiness, where the ego dissolves, and opens a doorway to the divine to enter. The night of Rumi's death in 1273 is considered 'Rumi's Wedding Night', the night he achieved full union with the divine that he had sought so often in poetry and mystical practice.
There is much to be gained in the contemplation of this frequently overlooked poet.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Book with a good cross-section of Rumi's work, Jan. 20 2012
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This review is from: The Essential Rumi - Reissue: New Expanded Edition (Paperback)
If one were to buy just one book with the poetry of Rumi, it is probably it. I has a good cross-section of humour, religious directed comment, and sage advice. One does not have to wade through tomes of Rumi to hit something of real interest as there is a gem on every page. Particularly like his comments on Jesus. Very funny indeed!
Type is easy to see and margins such that one can make notes. An easy read.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Good but not Magnificent, May 9 2000
This review is from: The Essential Rumi - Reissue: New Expanded Edition (Paperback)
Coleman Barks "Essential Rumi" deserves praise - but as to whether it is truly "essential" is of question. Barks does a good job translating the already translated work. But by changing the language, much of the mysticism Rumi was trying to evoke on the reader is lost. For example here is a Rumi poem in both Farsi(or Persian -English word for Farsi) and English -
Jumla ma'shuq ast-o 'aashiq pardah' i
Zenda ma'shuq ast-o 'aashiq mordah'i
All is the Beloved and the lover is a veil
The Beloved is alive and the lover is dead
If you read the Farsi (even if it doesn't make sense to you) you can tell that the words not only rhyme but they have a distinct rhythm to them, aside from that, the vocabulary Rumi uses is ingenious.
Like another review I read, Barks is "translating translations", Barks mereley takes work already translated and retranslates them into a more readable structure.
The 6 books of the Mathnavi were put in a special order but Barks just chooses from here and there. Barks was even told by Bawa Muhayadeen (sufi saint) that "In order to understand a master, he would have to become one" Which he explains he didn't do, but he said that he frequently did meet with Bawa.
Nevertheless Coleman Barks does deserve much credit for bringing Rumi into Western culture.
Jalaludin Rumi was an ecstatic lover of Allah (SWT). His Mathnavi is considered by many the greatest book ever written by a human being. It would be to everyones benefit to read through it and see how a 13th Century Mystic, from Afghanistan but lived most of his life Konya, Turkey, had everything and everyone in this world figured out.
For a better idea of Rumi read E.H. Whinfield's TEACHINGS OF RUMI.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Enchanting! Deeply Profound and Spiritual, July 16 1997
By A Customer
This review is from: The Essential Rumi - Reissue: New Expanded Edition (Paperback)
Rumi's poetry touches Soul in Its deepest recesses, reminding us of the value of silence, of contemplation, and of seeking God within ourselves. Sprinkled throughout his poetry, is a liberal dash of Light and Sound, the two manifestations of God's voice on Earth. We too can contact these two aspects of God, and almost magically, Rumi's poems all fall into place. This book is more than a book of poems. It is something akin to a map, detailing one man's spiritual journey into the Heart of God, and then back into society, to live amongst the "sleeping."
Shams of Tabriz makes a few appearances in the writings of Eckankar, as well as in this book, and filled me with excitement as my eye fell upon his name. For those interested in the Light and Sound of God, check out this site: [...]

My congratulations and thanks go out to Coleman Barks as well, for capturing the lyric magic and the musical spirituality that fills Rumi's works. Thank you, and my congratulations on a job well done.
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4.0 out of 5 stars beautiful book, but also see new biography, Dec 19 2000
By A Customer
This review is from: The Essential Rumi - Reissue: New Expanded Edition (Paperback)
This is a beautifully put together book of interpretations of translations of some of Rumi's work, though I do think other scholars, Nicholson comes to mind, have gotten much closer to the essence of Rumi. Nicholson doesn't water Rumi down; often, very often, Rumi's work was incredibly rambling, and extremely hard to follow--but delightful and compelling nonetheless. Though I do immensly enjoy Barks' work, he makes Rumi too tidy, and much of Rumi's brilliant essence and expansive mind is missed.
I recently stumbled across an absolutely engaging biography of Rumi, and which is a popular, short form account. Why the heck did it take so long for this? is anybody's guess. There is one other very good biography out there by a scholar named Iqbal, but even this is still too academic. This new book, Rumi: A Spiritual Biography by Leslie Wines though is a vigorous and ambitious little book and I think a must read for all those with a real love for this most incredible man and poet.
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5.0 out of 5 stars An American Rumi, April 2 2002
This review is from: The Essential Rumi - Reissue: New Expanded Edition (Paperback)
This book may well become an American classic of poetry someday. It is by far the best English collection of Rumi's poetry, done by his most able translator.
Although Rumi's poetry -- as with most poetry -- is at core untranslatable, Barks has done a fine job in rendering older technical translations of the Maulana into poetic English. What one encounters here is not just Rumi, but Rumi filtered through Barks. If you object to that go learn Persian because no translation will be able to capture the subtle nuances conveyed through the original language.
Barks should be commended in showing us another face of Islam, and revealing, in the process, the timeless, universal and transreligious teachings of one of Islam's greatest saints.
For fans of Rumi/Barks, I suggest Winkel's new book: Damascus Steel. Its a work of fiction exploring contemporary political themes through sufi lenses, and was written before (!) September 11th.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Quite frankly, the most beautiful book I have ever read., July 5 1997
By A Customer
This review is from: The Essential Rumi - Reissue: New Expanded Edition (Paperback)
At the risk of cliche, if you only buy a single
book this year, please do yourself a favor and
make it "The Essential Rumi." Rumi is for
Americans who think that Islam is all about harems
and terrorists. A sultry serenade to God, Rumi's
poetry explodes in the soul with a beautiful force
that tears down the wall between the individual
and the Divine. Jelaluddin Rumi was a 13th
Century Sufi mystic, the founder of the so-called
"whirling dervishes", whose inner exploration
allowed him to attain a rare level of enlightenment
and connection with God. His poems resonate with
truth and wisdom so earnest that it is impossible
not to be swept away on a tide of pure spiritual
longing and fulfillment. This is a book for
anyone who loves poetry, religion, God, or love.
And if you don't love these things now, you will
by the time you finish "The Essential Rumi."
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5.0 out of 5 stars A Pleasure For All The Senses!, April 2 2000
By 
Melissa (Oregon, USA) - See all my reviews
This review is from: The Essential Rumi - Reissue: New Expanded Edition (Paperback)
I must start off with one word - Wow! I had heard of Rumi for several years but never read his works until just recently. I was totally floored! How can a man who lived over 700 years ago know me so well? I was immediately caught up in the simple wit, humor, and frankness Rumi displayed, and identified with many of his characters. I never knew I was dying of thirst until I drank from this fountain! Anyone who understands metaphysical and New Age principles will find this book to be a delightful journey. Poets and writers who love blending emotions and intellect will be inspired by it. I wish I had discovered Rumi years ago. I will keep this book by my bed for a long, long time!
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The Essential Rumi - Reissue: New Expanded Edition
The Essential Rumi - Reissue: New Expanded Edition by Coleman Barks (Paperback - Jan. 16 1997)
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