Sunday, June 20, 2010

261) "running" into rumi: the mystical poet

the literary life 6/20/10

Yesterday I did the usual: watched the world cup and completed some chores. I left home later in the day to send out some poems and run errands. On my drive, I saw a car with the license plate, "Rumi", which I thought was an affirming sign since I had poems going out into the universe. I remember writing a paper once on Rumi in grad school. It was on Rumi's influence on the American imagination. He's one of the best selling poets, and The Christian Science Monitor a few years ago named him THE best-selling poet in America. I can see why. He speaks to the spiritual seeker looking to embrace unity in contradiction. His message transcends religious differences, embraces the mystical. Still, Rumi's story could not be written without the help of Coleman Barks, his most popular translator; nor without the help of the Indian self-help Guru, Deepak Chopra, who quotes him routinely in his books, even edited a collection called, The Love Poems of Rumi . One of my favorite Rumi quotes, one I've kept in a journal for years is as follows: "Let the world go. Holding it we never know ourselves, never are air-born." This quote reminds me to forget myself and focus on what's in front of me. A beautiful insight! Anyhow, seeing the Rumi license plate made me nostalgic for grad school, for my early twenties when I first discovered self-help and healing literature, and I thought I could escape mental negativity. I really believed it. Life's challenged my resistance to suffering. I now accept life is difficult, that moments of mental freedom are precious but fleeting. Still, I miss the young woman who didn't know, who once believed reading the right poem could eat up one's inner darkness forever. I still believe poetry has the power to inspire change and insight. I still believe in the possibility of nirvana. It's been a long time, however, since I've read a book on Islamic Mysticism, opened up my mind to Sufi thought. What does it mean to be a mystical poet? It's about using poetry as a tool toward enlightenment or awakening. Kind of like Haiku writing. It's not just about art or beauty or aesthetics. It's about arriving again and again at the doorstep of truth. Rumi's poems have an advice-giving quality to them. I want to sit down later today and write a poem with mysticism in mind.


  1. I love Rumi. I used one of his lines as an epigraph to my 2008 chapbook:

    "I'm like a bird from another continent, sitting in this aviary."

  2. Love the quote. Rumi's inspiring.