The works of Rumi Translated by Haleh Liza Gafori
New York Review Books Classics
March 2022 Book Club Selection
1-800-354-0050 or 1-903-636-1101
“Every religion has Love
But Love has no religion.
Love is an ocean-
No borders, no shore.
Drown there, and you won’t lament it.
The drowned have no regrets.” – Rumi
Growing up, my favorite poets were E. E. Cummings and Rumi. E. E. Cummings because of his free-form modernist work and unique orthography avoiding capitalization. Rumi was different. A love affair, never having met him on a physical plane, a Persian-born Molana, Jalal ad-Din Mohammad Balkhy, in 1207 in Afghanistan, we connected spiritually early on. For years I subscribed and received a daily Rumi quote for meditation.
The ancient tongue of the Persians, Farsi, is the ultimate romantic language, and the nuances and shades are deep and numerous. Rumi is considered the greatest poet of this language; his significant works are the Masnavi, rhyming couplets like those quoted above, and Divan-e Shams-e Tabrizi, a collection of lyric poetry.
Haleh Liza Gafori, a Persian born in New York City, is a poet, translator, and musician who applies insightful depth and knowledge to Rumi’s works to make them available and tangible to western English readers. Her skill set and talents are well suited for this poet and the task of capturing and expressing his idiomatic poetic nuances.
“The language of Farsi and English possess quite different poetic resources and habits, and it is impossible in English to reproduce the rich interplay of sound, rhyme, and wordplay. The tropes, abstractions, and hyperbole that is so abundant in Persian poetry contrast with the spareness and concreteness of poetry in English,” Gafori explains in the Introduction.
Gafori includes several poems never translated into English. Gold is a word reoccurring throughout Rumi’s poetry. “Rumi’s gold is not the precious metal, but a feeling-state arrived at through the alchemical process of burning through layers of self, greed, pettiness, calculation, and doctrine. Gold is the deepest love,” states Gafori.
Reading Gold cover to cover in one sitting will be your first foray. Then by force, you shall return to passages that make you glow with wonder. After a while, it becomes a source of meditation and endless questioning as you discover and internalize the meanings of the art at hand. Your copy will be worn with use and time and become a highly prized possession surviving the layers of internal abandonment the work provokes. We let go to absorb and bask in a golden glimmering luminosity through these pages. New to Rumi’s poetry, this is a great start. Veteran, discover the new English translations enclosed.
Rumi’s poems liberate his audiences from doctrine, especially of the religious ilk. “I hope Rumi’s spirit lives on in these translations and that his love, wisdom, and devotion to liberation move you,” Gafori states.
“What a gift this is, what gold.” – Rumi
Readers may enjoy our other book reviews such as My Moment – 106 Women on Fighting for Themselves, Remembering Philip Guston, Women Running In the Mountains, and What Doesn’t Kill Her.