Wednesday, February 14, 2018

The Love Poems of Rumi

Happy Valentine's Day! What better day than today to take a look at Rumi's love poetry, as translated by Nader Khalili. The folks at the Quarto Books were kind enough to send me a copy of this beautiful book of poetry to review. Today I share it with you.

Love Poems

The Love Poems of Rumi; as translated by Nader Khalili, © 2015, Wellfleet Press

Reviewing a book of poetry is a tricky thing. Poetry is personally subjective. It is full of emotions, personal reflections, and poetic turns of phrase that spring forth from a poet's heart. Who is a critic to call it good or bad?

Such is my challenge.

Add to that, the fact that this is a translation from Rumi's works, and the prospect is daunting at best. Sure, I can comment on the artistic license that Nader takes in not including any capitalization or punctuation [Do I attribute that to Nader or Rumi? I would think Nader, as Rumi wrote in Persian, which is a whole different alphabet. Nader offers the English, therefore makes his call on translation and interpretation]

Regardless, I personally find 'i' distracting from the poetry as a whole. I want to correct the text every time I see the lower case letter. My sritique, but certainly not enough to take away my pleasure in these poems. If anything, I suspect we are to put less stock in 'i' the self, versus the bigger concept of capital L Love. Love is so much bigger than mere i in the grand scheme of things.

So perhaps we should delve into the text then, as Love is certainly the theme of the poetry inside the ornate pages of this book. Translation aside, the words of Jalāl ad-Dīn Muhammad Rūmī are enough to sweep anyone away with their beautiful and heartbreaking prose that reaches through the ages. For despite the fact that Rumi lived from 1207-1273, I am sure that many can relate to these universal feelings we ache from; the pathos of Love.
anyone who is not in love
cannot be as light as a soul
like moon and stars
cannot be orbiting restlessly
hear it from me
as the final word
a flag can never dance
with no air and no wind
I would be remiss, if I did not share
some of the beautiful murals
found within the pages of the book
Ah, do we not all dream of the mythical ideal of love to give us air to breathe and stars in the sky. It is love that makes it so...
love is
a mirror
you see nothing
but your reflection
you see nothing
but your real face
Should we seek outside ourselves to find this love though? Reading this and several other poems leads me to conclude the answer is not necessarily so. It can be found within and without. Love is joy and suffering. It is a journey we are privileged to be a part of.

Wise council fair Rumi. Thank you for these interpretations Khalili.

But lest we give up on earthly love, and the boundless challenges that come with it, there are still many lines which offer hope to those still looking for love this Valentine's Day. The journey may be long and hard, but Master Rumi suggests the path is necessary and infinitely worth it. Khalili gathers these thoughts together and counters them in subsequent pages, but the message rings out throughout—Love is...

There are so many more lovely images, but I will share these last lines for auspicious lovers to be today. May you find your sweetheart friends! I have many more poems to ponder, as I wander along my own journey towards Love.
this heart will one day
find you a sweetheart
this soul will one day
take you to the beloved
seize your pain as a blessing
your pain will one day
lead you to healing

Tuesday, February 13, 2018


March, by Geraldine Brooks, ©2005, Viking

It seems appropriate to have read March during February—Black History Month. This novel is set during the American Civil War, as people raged against each other in the name of black emancipation. While a work of fiction, it touches on some of the many historical events of the day, many of them heartbreaking. More interesting for me though, was the fact that this book is an imagined perspective from Mr March, the absent father from Louisa May Alcott's Little Women. And while I don't usually go in for fan fiction, this novel is a worthy read in its own right (won the 2006 Pulitzer Prize for fiction).

Brooks readily notes that she takes license with some of the time periods, but she did her homework before writing this book. She started with Little Women, but dug deeper into Alcott's own personal history, where Little Women was born. In fact, Alcott's father became the model for Mr March. Some of the supporting characters who appear throughout Brooks' book are taken directly from historical letters shared between Bronson Alcott and Henry David Thoreau and Ralph Waldo Emerson, neighbours of the Alcott family. Mr March's strict vegetarian lifestyle and support of racial equality were also point of fact from Alcott's life. One must remember though, that this is a work of historical fiction.

I must admit, I did not always like the character of Mr March. He strove to control his wife's hot temper too frequently for my sensibilities. That would have been common for the day, but that was what attracted him to her in the first place. And would his beloved Marmee really have been so outspoken during such a tumultuous time? Perhaps, but it seems unlikely. Again though, a work of fiction derived from another classic piece of English literature.

Mr March was a stalwart in his fight for what he believed was right though, and however misguided he sometimes was, one must applaud the courage he took to stand in the face of the popular belief of the day and the rampant abuses that were slavery in the 1800s. Seeing snippets of the Underground Railroad, the bloody battles, the horrific medical practices, and the people who lived through those turbulent times was interesting though. So many heroes, even while they strived to be human at best. For perhaps to give a genuine care to our fellow humans, is the most heroic of deed of all.

"I simply ask you to see that there is only one thing to do when we fall, and that is to get up, and go on with the life that is set in front of us, and try to do the good of which our hands are capable for the people who come in our way."
~ Grace Clement; quote from March by Geraldine Brooks


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