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Rumi's poetry has been published in various English editions since the 19th century. And there has been no shortage of translators. Today, through the translations of Coleman Barks, he is the best-selling poet in the English language. The market for his poems is insatiable. He has a loyal following of English readers and serious devotees. Still, in English, Rumi’s poems have often been rendered into a literal and academic prose that is awkward and wooden or into a New-Age idiom that bears little relationship to the author’s original text or his context. Professors Amin Banani and Anthony A. Lee come to the rescue with a masterful translation that bridges the academic demand for fidelity to the original Persian text with a sensitive poetic translation that speaks to 21st-century readers.
The book has three sections: 1) a general introduction to Rumi's poetry, 2) translations of 53 short poems, and 3) a groundbreaking essay by Banani on the position of Rumi in Islamic poetry and in world literature.
The poems are presented as lessons on love. The reader is encouraged to treat them as koans to inspire spiritual contemplation.
Amin Banani is an emeritus professor of history and Persian literature at the University of California, Los Angeles. He is the author of Mysticism and Poetry in Islam: The Heritage of Rumi and Persian Literature. He has pioneered the literary translation of contemporary Iranian poets. Anthony A. Lee lives in the Los Angeles area. He teaches African American history at the University of California, Los Angeles, and at West Los Angeles College. He was awarded the Nat Turner Poetry Award (2003). He has received the Naomi Long Madgett Poetry Award (2005) and the Merton Institute’s Poetry of the Sacred" award (2012). .