Interviewed By Chitra Kalyani
Coleman Barks has authored many translations of Rumi.
Coleman Barks was born and raised in Chattanooga, Tennessee, US, and was educated at the University of North Carolina and the University of California at Berkeley. He taught poetry and creative writing at the University of Georgia for 30 years. He is the author of numerous Rumi translations and has been a student of Sufism since 1977. He lives in Athens, Georgia (“Split the Sack”
2- “I See the Face”
He also told me to do this Rumi work. “It has to be done,” he said.
IOL: Robert Bly, your mentor, said “Rumi is a way for Americans to love Islam.” Why and how would that be? What are your thoughts? Can you think of examples?
Barks: The media is so caught up with the connection of Islam with terrorists. It is helpful and healing to remember that Rumi comes from that line and his stature in that world is huge compared to the tiny influence of the suicide terrorists.
IOL: In a book dedicated to Rumi’s poems, you speak at some length of the Iranian-American history of 1953. Why is that important?
Barks: I wanted to put that in because our interference in the Iranian governmental process was so outrageous. We need to be as honest and open with each other about such things as possible. We need to be larger than these little national identities. We need to begin to think of ourselves as citizens of a planet that has planetary problems, and the solutions need to be that large too.
IOL: Your introduction ends with a note of regret — almost longing — for not having sat down with the scrap-wood man you encountered in Shiraz, Iran. Why is that?
Barks: I think it was the beautiful soul-intelligence I saw in his eyes. They reminded me of Bawa’s eyes.