A New Translation of Selected Poems by Rumi

I received a copy of this book for review, I was not compensated and all opinions expressed are my own.  Some material for this post was provided by the publisher.



A New Translation of Selected Poems

By Farrukh Dhondy

“Farrukh Dhondy conveys to us Rumi as a universal poet and thinker and captures in verse the spirit of Rumi’s philosophy in an authentic fashion often missed by some of the modern interpreters of Rumi. His introduction gives us an overview of the essential message of Sufism and its relevance to the modern world.” —Mahmood Jamal, author of Islamic Mystical Poetry

“Transcendent yet simple, Rumi’s words—in this exquisite translation by Farrukh Dhondy—forever remain the anchor of the human condition.”—Mira Nair

Rumi, the thirteenth-century Muslim spiritual leader and Sufi mystic, has won such a following in the United States that a few years ago he became our bestselling poet. But the translations that have popularized his work have given it a sort of post-hippie, New Age appeal, straying from its essence. Rumi: A New Translation (Arcade Publishing, May 2013) by Farrukh Dhondy seeks to recover both the lyrical beauty and the spiritual essence of the original verse.

In poems of love and devotion, rapture and suffering, loss and yearning for oneness, Dhondy has rediscovered Rumi as a poet of spiritual awakening whose quest is the key to his universal appeal. As the poet Ruth Pradel points out, Dhondy takes pains to “reflect Rumi’s antiquity and traditional poetics, as well as his lively and often humorous take on life . . . . This is a labor of love.” In this new translation Dhondy offers Rumi as at once a great poet of love, both human and divine, and the authentic voice of a moderate Islam—a voice that can resonate in today’s turbulent times.

About the Authors

Rumi was born in 1207 in Vakhsh in the province of Balkh (now in Tajikistan) to a family of learned Persian Muslim theologians. He founded the Malawi Sufi order, a leading mystical brotherhood of Islam. Rumi’s masterpiece, the Mathnawi, has been called the “Koran in Persian.” He died in 1273 in Konya in present-day Turkey.

Farrukh Dhondy is a London-based writer, screenwriter, playwright, and activist of Indian Parsi descent. He has published novels and short stories, written screenplays for Bollywood, and been a commissioning editor at TV4 in the UK. In 2012, he celebrated the opening of his opera based on Rudyard Kipling’s Just So Stories.

Before my sojourn into yoga I had no idea who Rumi was and stayed fairly ignorant until I started purchasing greeting cards for my studio.  Although Rumi is tweeted on a daily basis in Twitter feeds most people probably are not aware of this poet, though he did gain mention in an episode of Bones and you don’t get more mainstream than American TV.  This translation is one of many that have been made over the years.  I am not a historian or well versed in Rumi, Sufi poetry, but this translation and selection of poems is definitely a far cry from those select tidbits that get tweeted regarding love and longing, fulfillment and friendship.  The book is tidy, short selections displayed elegantly and what I found to enjoy is the meter and rhyme to the translations.  Yes, I grew up on Dr.Seuss and enjoy poetry when it rhymes and has rhythm – interpret that as you will.  If you are a true scholar the Q&A in the back of the book with the author may upset you.  He admits to his Persian being “non-existent” and basing his translations of of the lyrics of mega pop stars which may be why there is less of a “sagely” feel to this reading. I’m sure after reading others’ reviews online that those who are enraptured with Rumi would not be huge fans of this translation, but I have learned that everyone has an entry point. 

When I teach a yoga class that is more physical and less esoteric or spiritual it still reaches my students.  Something happens to them, even if it merely exists on the physical plane.  That knowledge had the potential to awaken a deeper desire for more learning.  This translation may just be a catalyst to ease people into the deeper, literal translations of a far more existential body of work. You never know whose life you touch and how you may touch it.