NYRB Classics. Mar. 2022. 116p. tr. from Farsi by Haleh Liza Gafori. ISBN 9781681375335. pap. $14.95. POETRY
In this eloquent, faithful translation of the popular 13th-century poet and mystic Rumi, Persian American poet and musician Gafori opens a fresh window on Rumi’s spiritual quest and his urgent invitation to readers to embrace a more enlightened existence. Ecstatic, spinning lines wind through mystical paradoxes—wordless speaker, footless runner, placeless place—toward a sense of wonder and oceanic love. With bracing stoic vigor (“Whatever the ways of the world, what fruits do you bring?”) listeners are urged to break free from the fetters of greed, pride, desire, status, reason, duality, and selfhood, and surrender to an ultimate Truth that cannot be fathomed but is delineated through vivid elemental metaphors—earth, thorns, flowers, seas, flames, wine, and yes, gold.
VERDICT Both the authority and musicality of Gafori’s translation, and her artful selection of excerpts from Rumi’s vast and intensely personal Divan-e Shams-e Tabrizi amply justify this book’s place in any Rumi collection, where it is sure to provide seeds for contemplation and kindling for spiritual fire.
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