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Coleman Barks reading

Barks reading in Norway, 2011. Photo by Haakon Thue Lie. Licensed under Creative Commons, courtesy Wikimedia Commons.

Coleman Barks (born 1937) is an American poet. Although he neither speaks nor reads Persian, he is nonetheless renowned as an interpreter of Rumi and other mystic poets of Persia.

LifeEdit

Barks is a native of Chattanooga, Tennessee. He attended the University of North Carolina and the University of California, Berkeley.

Barks taught literature at the University of Georgia for 3 decades. He lives in Athens, Georgia, where he interprets the writings of Rumi and composes poetry of his own.

Barks makes frequent international appearances and is well-known throughout the Middle East. Barks' work has contributed to an extremely strong following of Rumi in the English-speaking world.[1] Due to his work, the ideas of Sufism have crossed many cultural boundaries over the past few decades. Coleman Barks received an honorary doctorate from Tehran University in 2006.[2]

He has also read his original poetry at the Geraldine R. Dodge Poetry Festival.

In early 2011, Barks suffered a stroke that has somewhat impaired his speech and has resulted in at least one cancelled appearance. [3]

WritingEdit

Rumi interpretationsEdit

Barks has published several volumes of his interpretations of Rumi's poetry since 1976, including The Hand of Poetry, Five Mystic Poets of Persia in 1993, The Essential Rumi in 1995 and The Book of Love in 2003.

Criticism Edit

Barks does not speak or read Persian; his 'translations' are therefore technically paraphrases. Barks bases his paraphrases entirely on other English translations of Rumi which include renderings by John Moyne and Reynold A. Nicholson.[4] In addition, while the original Persian poetry of Rumi is heavily rhymed and metered, Barks has used primarily free verse. In some instances, he will also skip[5] or mix lines and metaphors from different poems into one 'translation'.

For example, here is a very literal rendering by Reynold A. Nicholson,

On the Day of Resurrection every hidden thing will be made manifest: every sinner will be ignominiously exposed by himself.
His hands and feet will give evidence and declare his iniquity in the presence of Him whose help is sought.
His hand will say, 'I have stolen such and such'; his lip will say, 'I have asked such and such questions';
His foot will say. 'I have gone to (enjoy) things desired'; his pudendum will say, 'I have committed fornication.'
His eye will say, 'I have cast amorous glances at things forbidden'; his ear will say, 'I have gathered evil words.'
Therefore he is a lie from head to foot, for even his own members give him the lie,
Just as, in (the case of) the specious prayers (performed by the ascetic), their fine appearance was proved to be false testimonio testiculi.
Act, then, in such wise that the action itself, without (your) tongue (uttering a word), will be (equivalent to) saying 'I testify' and (to making) the most explicit declaration,
So that your whole body, limb by limb, O son, will have said 'I testify' as regards both good and ill.
The slave's walking behind his master is a testimony (equivalent to saying), 'I am subject to authority and this man is my lord.'[6]

And Barks' version of the same passage,

On Resurrection Day your body testifies against you.
Your hand says, 'I stole money.'
Your lips, 'I said meanness.'
Your feet, 'I went where I shouldn't.'
Your genitals, 'Me Too.'

They will make your praying sound hypocritical
Let the body's doings speak openly now,
without your saying a word,
as a student's walking behind a teacher
says, "This one knows more clearly
than I the way.[7]

Barks' translations have been criticised by many Persian scholars. Majid Naficy writes that Coleman Barks reduces Rumi's poetry to a New Age text:
The essential problem of Coleman Barks lies in the fact that in his version he intentionally changes Rumi... He approaches Rumi's poetry as sacred texts, which need to be dusted from the passage of times by a touched devotee and prepared for the Post Modern, New Age market in the West. The New Age movement finds a remedy for modern alienation in old recipes, such as horoscope, Extra-Sensory Perception and divination... In order to remodel and fix Rumi for the American market Barks follows the path of a New-Age sufi. He tries to disconnect the mystical concepts of Rumi from their historical and social backgrounds and modify them for our contemporary taste... The falsification and misrepresentation of Rumi's fundamental concepts is not limited to Love and spreads to other ideas such as "wine", "master" and "Jesus".[8]

Rumi translationsEdit

Barks has published several volumes of Rumi's poetry since 1976, including The Hand of Poetry, Five Mystic Poets of Persia in 1993, The Essential Rumi in 1995 and The Book of Love in 2003.

Barks does not speak Persian, but bases his interpretations entirely on other English translations of Rumi. This includes translations by John Moyne. In addition, while the original Persian poetry of Rumi is heavily rhymed and metered, Barks has used primarily free verse. In some instances, he will also mix lines and metaphors from different poems into one 'translation'.

Original poetryEdit

Barks has published several volumes of his own poetry, including Gourd Seed, Tentmaking, and, in 2001, Granddaughter Poems, a collection of poetry about his granddaughter, Briny Barks, with illustrations by Briny. Harper published his 1st book of poetry, The Juice, in 1972. Quickly Aging Here is another of his poetry books.

Quotes Edit

Iran is my first home-land. (2006)[9]

The only credential I have for working on Rumi's poetry is my meeting with [my Sufi teacher], Bawa Muhaiyaddeen. That relationship is the only access I have to what is going on in Rumi's poetry.[10]

RecognitionEdit

In March 2009 Barks was inducted to the Georgia Writers' Hall of Fame.[11]

PublicationsEdit

PoetryEdit

  • The Juice. New York: Harper & Row, 1971.
  • New Words. Austell, GA: Sweetwater Press, 1976.
  • There's a Delicacy in Lappland. New York: Poetry in Public Places, 1976.
  • We're Laughing at the Damage. Davidson, NC: Briarpatch Press, 1977.
  • Gourd Seed. Athens, GA: Maypop, 1993.
  • Xenia: A hoard of lost words, eighteenth-century street lingo, and a few completely confabulated terms. Athens, GA: Maypop, 1994.
  • Club: Granddaughter poems (illustrated by Briny Barks). Athens, GA: Maypop, 2001.
  • Tentmaking: Poems and prose paragraphs. Athens, GA: Maypop, 2001.
  • Scrapwood Man: Poetry and prose. Athens, Ga: Maypop, 2007.
  • Winter Sky: New and selected poems. Athens, GA: University of Georgia Press, 2008.
  • Hummingbird Sleep: Poems, 2009-2011. Athens, GA: University of Georgia Press, 2013.

TranslatedEdit

  • Rumi, Night and Sleep (with Robert Bly). Cambridge, MA: Yellow Moon Press, 1981.
  • Rumi, Open Secret: Versions of Rumi. Putney, VT: Threshold Books, 1984.
  • Rumi, The Essential Rumi. San Francisco: HarperCollins, 1995.
  • Rumi, Like This. Athens, GA: Maypop, 1990.
  • The Hand of Poetry: Five mystic poets of Persia: Translations from the poems of Sanai, Attar, Rumi, Saadi and Hafiz. New Lebanon, NY: Omega Publications, 1993.
  • Rumi, The Illuminated Rumi. New York: Broadway Books, 1997.
  • Rumi, The Glance: Songs of soul-meeting. New York: Viking / Arkana, 1999.
  • The Illuminated Prayer: The five-times prayer of the Sufis as revealed by Jellaludin Rumi & Bawa Muhaiyaddeen. New York: Ballantine Wellspring, 2000.
  • Rumi, The Soul of Rumi: A new collection of ecstatic poems. San Francisco: HarperSanFrancisco, 2001.
  • Rumi, The Book of Love: Poems of ecstasy and longing. New York: HarperCollins, 2003.
  • Rumi, A Year with Rumi: Daily readings. San Francisco: HarperSanFrancisco, 2006.
  • Rumi, Bridge to the Soul: Journeys into the music and silence of the heart. New York: HarperOne, 2007.
  • Rumi, The Big Red Book: The great masterpiece celebrating mystical love and friendship. New York: HarperOne, 2010.


Except where noted, bibliographical information courtesy WorldCat.[12]

Audio / video Edit

I am here~ Rumi ~read by Coleman Barks

I am here~ Rumi ~read by Coleman Barks

Coleman Barks reads Rumi's 'I See My Beauty In You'

Coleman Barks reads Rumi's 'I See My Beauty In You'

Poetry Everywhere Coleman Barks' Translation from Rumi

Poetry Everywhere Coleman Barks' Translation from Rumi

Rumi read by Coleman Barks

Rumi read by Coleman Barks

Coleman Barks Reads Rumi in Translation

Coleman Barks Reads Rumi in Translation

Rumi - Only Breath - Coleman Barks-0

Rumi - Only Breath - Coleman Barks-0

This Is How I Would Die (Rumi poetry recites by Coleman Barks)

This Is How I Would Die (Rumi poetry recites by Coleman Barks)

Discography Edit

See alsoEdit

ReferencesEdit

  1. Persian Poet Conquers America
  2. Iran News report
  3. http://donshare.blogspot.com/2011/03/message-from-coleman-barks.html
  4. Coleman Barks, The Essential Rumi: New Expanded Edition (Harper Collins Publishers, 2004), "On the more literal level, the texts I work from to produce these poems are unpublished translations done by John Moyne, Emeritus Head of Linguistics at the City University of New York, and the following translations by Reynold Nicholson and A. J. Arberry, the famous Cambridge Islamicists..." (p. 365)
  5. http://dar-al-masnavi.blogspot.com/2012/02/dar-al-masnavi-question-about.html
  6. Reynold A. Nicholson (translator), The Mathnawi of Jalalu'din Rumi, Book V, verses 2211-2220, p. 133 (E. J. W. Gibb Memorial Trust 1926, Reprinted 2001)
  7. Coleman Barks, The Essential Rumi: New Expanded Edition, (Harper Collins Publishers, 2004), p. 111
  8. Coleman Barks and Rumi's Donkey, The Iranian, December 13, 2005, by Majid Naficy
  9. Fars News Agency report
  10. Bookpage.com
  11. http://www.libs.uga.edu/gawriters/page/honorees.html
  12. Search results = au:Coleman Barks, WorldCat, OCLC Online Computer Library Center Inc. Web, Apr. 24, 2014.

External links Edit

Poems
Audio / video
Books
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