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Reading Rumi in an Uncertain World book coverReading Rumi in an Uncertain World

by Robert Bly


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DVD

Introductions by Zara Houshmand, Music by David Whetstone and Oliver Rajamani, Booklet notes by Robert Bonazzi. Produced by Farid Mohammadi and Nafas, a non-profit organization for the preservation and promotion of world poetry.

This two-hour DVD features a live performance by two of America's best known poets reading from the works of Rumi, Kabir, Hafez, Lalla Bahauddin Valad (Rumi's Father) and other contemporary poets of the Middle East. Bly and Nye also read from their own recent works

Part I

Naomi Shihab Nye reads contemporary poems of the Middle East (by various translators)

Robert Bly reads from the Ecstatic poets:

Robert Bly reads his poems:

Part II: Bly and Nye read Rumi and Bahauddin Valad, father of Rumi (Translated by Coleman Barks and John Moyne)

Notes by Robert Bonazzi:

Nafas means "breath" in many Middle Eastern languages, and has been used by poets as a metaphor for wind and spirit. The genius of this word aptly characterizes Reading Rumi in an Uncertain World, as read by poets Robert Bly and Naomi Shihab Nye.

Their spring 2004 performance in Austin, Texas, was taped and produced by the intrepid Farid Mohammadi, founder of Nafas.

These spirited American voices embody the breath of poetry on winds of translation. We hear ecstatic poems by Rumi, Hafez and Kabir in versions by Bly; renderings of Sufis Bahauddin Valad and his son Rumi from the books translated by Coleman Barks and John Moyne; and Nye reading contemporary poems of the Middle East.

Robert Bly and Naomi Shihab Nye also read their own recent poems in harmony with two subtle musicians who had not previously performed together  Bly's accompanist David Whetstone on sitar and Oliver Rajamani of Austin improvising fluently on string and percussion instruments  transform this duo into a resonant quartet of voices.

What may sound like a high-brow recital was as natural as inviting friends for a visit. The performers arrived without pomp and proceeded to entertain and enlighten 500 enthusiasts with sublime poetry and music. More than merely a night to remember  this DVD will be a lovely evening each time you experience these profound inner realms of the spirit.

One of the most popular poets in the world today, Rumi was unknown in the West except to scholars until the mid-20th century. Yet Rumi never fell into obscurity in the Persian-speaking world. Rumi's best-known translator, poet Coleman Barks, wrote that he "had never even heard Rumi's name until 1976, when Robert Bly handed me a copy of A.J. Arberry's translations, saying, 'These poems need to be released from their cages.'" Barks "felt drawn immediately to the spaciousness and longing in Rumi's poetry," and "began to explore this new world...."

Barks worked closely with John Moyne and several other scholars on the groundbreaking books The Essential Rumi (1997) and The Soul of Rumi (2001). Their translations of the prose meditations of Rumi's Sufi father, Bahuddin Valad, appeared in 2004 as The Drowned Book. Most of the selections in Part II of this DVD are taken from these three remarkable books.

In a preface in The Winged Energy of Delight: Selected Translations (2004), Bly suggests some of the reasons for Rumi's appeal to American readers:

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