Today’s a day to celebrate all kinds of love, and here are some poems for it that you’ve probably never seen. Rumi’s Persian work is very well known and loved in the English-speaking world, but he also wrote in Arabic. As a mystic Sufi, he is much less known in the Arabic-speaking and Sunni world, and mostly in translations via English. Love is my Savior: The Arabic Poems of Rumi, bridges this gap, bringing together some of Rumi’s Arabic poems with their first-ever English translations.
The poet (Lee) and the Arabic translator (Akhtarkhavari) made a deliberate decision to rhyme in English too, which meant they also went for iambic pentameter. It’s harder to rhyme in English than in Arabic, and this sometimes could feel a little forced. But mostly,
Rumi’s love for God, and for his lost teacher and friend (and lover?) Shams e-Tabrizi, all come together here. The spiritual and the (homo)erotic are intertwined – the one leads to the other. Being together is intoxicating, and as close to heaven as it gets:
Rumi is writing in the thirteenth century, but his response to separation from his beloved is utterly relatable 800 years on – and almost tweetably compact:
Being together is, quite simply, home.
Rumi welcomes everyone to “join the feast”: you can get the book from Michigan State University Press. If you’re stuck for a last-minute gift, you can beam it to an e-reader right now… Happy Valentine’s Day – or Friend’s Day, as it is in Finland.