Apparently, Rumi is the most widely read poet in America today. Why then does WordPress’s spell checker not recognise him?
Anyway, Rumi’s success is no mean feat for a writer who, after all, represents quite a different time, culture and religion. To be sure, his popularity has been made possible to a very large extent by the work of Coleman Barks, whose translation and adaption of Rumi’s poetry has given it a wide appeal that more literal renderings would never have achieved. True, something important may well have been lost in the process, as has been pointed out by those who charge Barks with Americanising this thirteenth-century Sufi poet. Yet something very important has also been gained, for amidst all the Islamophobia that sadly has gained such a strong foothold in parts of the Western world, there is now an increasing number of people who, thanks to Barks’s work, have encountered and learned to appreciate Rumi’s Sufist wisdom.
Does this not make both Rumi, the old master himself, and Coleman Barks, his modern disciple, ambassadors of peace?