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It's the birthday of poet and translator Coleman Barks, (books
by this author) born in
The New Rule
It's the old rule that drunks have to argue
and get into fights.
The lover is just as bad. he falls into a hole.
But down in that hole he finds something shining,
worth more than any amount of money or power.
Last night the moon came dropping its
clothes in the street.
I took it as a sign to start singing,
falling up into the bowl of sky.
The bowl breaks. Everywhere is falling everywhere.
Nothing else to do.
Here's the new rule: break the wineglass,
and fall toward the glassblower's breath.
Inside this new love, die.
Your way begins on the other side.
Become the sky.
Take an axe to the prison wall.
Walk out like someone suddenly born into color.
Do it now.
Your covered with thick cloud.
Slide out the side. Die,
and be quiet. Quietness is the surest sign
that you've died.
Your old life was a frantic running
The speechless full moon
comes out now.
"I used to want buyers for my words.
Now I wish someone would buy me away from words.
I've made a lot of charmingly profound images,
scenes with Abraham, and Abraham's father, Azar,
who was also famous for icons.
I'm so tired of what I've been doing.
Then one image without form came,
and I quit.
Look for someone else to tend the shop.
I'm out of the image-making business.
Finally I know the freedom
A random image arrives. I scream,
"Get out!" It disintegrates.
Only the holder the flag fits into,
and wind. No flag. "
Coleman Barks on Rumi with a Side of Curry
by Margaret Doyle
Coleman Barks, preeminent translator of the 13th-century mystic poet Rumi, squirms audibly at the suggestion that he may be a prophet. He says only, "I can write and recognize poetry when I hear it." He describes a prophet as "someone through whom some revelation can come and anyone can. I have met people who have more of the light of God in them than us normal people, but Im not one of them."
Barks continues to describe himself: "Im a
tremendous doubter." Further, he says that his greatest
inspiration has been his encounters with a holy man, first in a
dream, and then in Philadelphia; that his practice of communal
spiritual worship features going for lattés and driving his
convertible; that he is most authentically himself when writing
poetry or playing with his grandchildren; and that his idea of a
perfect day is one spent working outdoors and working with words.
Coleman Barks may participate in a conference diagonally across
The message Barks conveys is of Rumis ecstatic poetry, which, as Barks said to Bill Moyers, PBS journalist, is "trying to get us to feel the vastness of our true identity ... like the sense you might get walking into a cathedral ... what Jesus referred to when he said, The kingdom of God is within you. "
Barks gave a precise definition of ecstasy in that Moyers interview: "each moment [is] solid and actual, yet numinous, shot through with divine light and guidance." He also gave a telling anecdotal definition of ecstasy when I asked him more recently to define it: "I was with my granddaughter, going around the yard lifting up stones to see what was there theres always something good, something interesting and a woman walking by on the street just turned her head and said, Youre going to spoil her. This universe is just so incredible that were all spoiled, and its okay. Rumi said, The eye is meant to see things; the soul is here for its own joy. "
Rumis poetry and Barks lifework express ecstasy with an openness, whimsy, and practicality that make the everyday resonate with the sacred; that make the everyday holy. So how does one train to be a poet in the ecstatic form? Barks taught his students, "You may as well tell as much truth as you know in poetry, because nobody makes any money off it ... and then I turned out to be a liar!" referring to the royalties he receives from his translations of Rumi. [...]
Jalal Al-Din Rumi, born in 1207, was the founder of the
Sufism, an openhearted exploration of unity. Rumi fled from
Coleman Barks describes his own practice of spirituality, his
worship services: "I go for lattés and I go riding in my
72 Dodge convertible. Everything is church, isnt it?
I love to sing old hymns ... I used to go to old singings in the
"I wouldnt say I was anything: I am everything! Why not a Hindu? I love the dancing Shiva. Surely St. Francis and Buddha Dharma would get along fine. They wouldnt have an argument. They would laugh a lot, and laughters pretty holy to me. I think its right at the core of where you lose your boundaries and some absorption in work that you love. I like to work with stone. I buy these big pallets of stone and they just disappear.
"Rumi was without boundaries. He would say that love is the religion and the universe is the book, that experience as were living it is the sacred text that we study, so that puts us all in the same God club."
Huston Smith, author of The Worlds Religions,
said, "If Rumi is the most-read poet in
"Sometimes in April, when the sun was going down [with] that gold light, I would just lie on the floor and hug myself. I grew up in a family where that was okay, and anybody could break into song at any moment, or dance, or whatever, and thats a great help to the ecstatic vision."
Barks claims his greatest inspiration came to him first in a
"That felt like the beginning, although Id already started working on the [Rumi] poems. I dont know that Id believe it in anybody else, but I cant not believe it when it happens to me! He taught me things in dreams like taking tiny, tiny little sips; he said, You want wisdom too quickly. "
entire article: http://www.newtimes.org/issue/0106/barks.htm
from Ode 1823
This is how it always is
when I finish a poem.
A great silence comes over me,
and I wonder why I ever thought
to use language.
Rumi, trans. Barks
I was dead, then alive.
Weeping, then laughing.
The power of love came into me,
and I became fierce like a lion,
then tender like the evening star.
He said, Youre not mad enough.
You dont belong in this house.
I went wild and had to be tied up.
He said, Still not wild enough
to stay with us!
I broke through another layer
He said, Its not enough.
He said, You are a clever little man,
full of fantasy and doubting.
I plucked out my feathers and became a fool.
He said, Now you are the candle
for this assembly.
But Im no candle. Look!
Im scattered smoke
He said, You are the Sheikh, the guide.
But Im not a teacher. I have no power.
He said, You already have wings.
I cannot give you wings.
But I wanted his wings.
I felt like some flightless chicken.
Then new events said to me,
Dont move. A sublime generosity is
coming towards you.
And old love said, Stay with me.
I said, I will.
You are the fountain of the suns light.
I am a willow shadow on the ground.
You make my raggedness silky.
The soul at dawn is like darkened water
that slowly begins to say Thank you, thank you.
Then at sunset, again, Venus gradually
Changes into the moon and then the whole nightsky.
This comes of smiling back
at your smile.
The chess master says nothing,
other than moving the silent chess piece.
That I am part of the ploys
of this game makes me
From: Rumi Like This
Versions by: Coleman Barks
We've come again to that knee of seacoast
no ocean can reach.
Tie together all human intellects.
They won't stretch to here.
The sky bares its neck so beautifully,
but gets no kiss. Only a taste.
This is the food that everyone wants,
wandering the wilderness, "Please give us
Your manna and quail."
We're here again with the Beloved.
This air, a shout. These meadowsounds,
an astonishing myth.
We've come into the Presence of the One
who was never apart from us.
When the waterbag is filling, you know
the Water-carrier's here!
The bag leans lovingly against Your shoulder.
"Without You I have no knowledge,
no way to touch anyone."
When someone chews sugarcane,
he's wanting this Sweetness.
Inside this globe the soul roars like thunder.
And now Silence, my strict tutor.
I won't try to talk about Shams.
Language cannot touch that Presence.
From: Rumi Like This
Versions by: Coleman Barks
http://www.newtimes.org/issue/0106/barks.htm best bio
If you meet the Buddha on the road....
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