Guest – Coleman Barks

Born and raised in Chattanooga, Tennessee, and educated at the University of North Carolina and the University of California at Berkeley, Barks taught poetry and creative writing at the University of Georgia for thirty years. He is the author of numerous Rumi translations and has been a student of Sufism since 1977. His work with Rumi was the subject of an hour-long segment in Bill Moyers’ Language of Life series on PBS, and he is a featured poet and translator in Bill Moyers' poetry special, "Fooling with Words."

Coleman Barks' versions of Rumi have proved to be remarkably popular making Rumi into one of America's best selling poets. Many consider that this unprecedented interest in the poetry of Rumi is primarily due to Barks' translations, including “The Soul of Rumi” and “Rumi:  The Book of Love”, and the anthology "The Essential Rumi".   A selection of the Rumi translations appears in the prestigious 7th edition of the edition of the Norton Anthology of World Masterpieces.

Coleman Barks is also a poet in his own right. He says of his writings.   “I like translating Rumi and writing my own poems. But in one I have to disappear- with Rumi.  In the other I have to get in the way- get my personality and my delights and my shame into the poems.”

"Rumi was without boundaries. He would say that love is the religion and the universe is the book, that experience as we're living it is the sacred text that we study, so that puts us all in the same God club."

One of the greatest pieces of good luck that has happened recently in American poetry is Coleman Barks' agreement to translate poem after poem of Rumi.  Coleman's exquisite sensitivity to the flavor and turns of ordinary American speech has produced marvelous lines, full of flavor and Sufi humor, as well as the intimacy that is carried inside American speech at its best."       -Robert Bly