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Say Nothing: Poems of Jalal al-Din Rumi in Persian and English

Say Nothing is interesting. The translations are quite good and I love the bilingual format! I read a lot of modern English language poetry, sometimes with a little influence from other languages. But poetry in translation from hundreds of years ago is a whole different beast, and it took me a little to get into the nature of Rumi's poetry, which is a bit zen in its contradictions.

Maybe that's not surprising for a mystic.

Once I got the rhythm of it, I quite liked the book. It probably helped that I was reading it slowly, alongside a history of Rumi and the whirling dervishes; I'm missing a lot of cultural context as a WASP-raised American, and poetry is all about implication and word play and context.

The book alternates quatrains with ghazals, which is an interesting artistic choice that, like the mirrored pages in each language, works very well. Overall, I think I like the quatrains a bit more than the ghazals. They feel more modern, so maybe that's just my comfort zone showing.

I'm also super curious now to read a sociological history of the homoerotic in Rumi's work, because, like.

Here's one of my favorite poems:

We are from above and up we will go.

We come from the sea, we'll go to the sea.

We're from there, not from here.

We are from nowhere, to nowhere we'll go.

Like Noah's ark in the flood

we must move without legs.

Like a wave, we grow out of ourselves.

When we want to feast our eyes, we withdraw.

The way to God is narrow as the eye of a needle.

We slip through alone like a single thread.

Remember home and companions

knowing that we leave them behind.

You have read: "We return to Him,"

so you know where it is we are going.

Our star isn't found in the turning wheel.

We're bound to venture past the Pleiades.

O words, stop. Don't come with me--

I'm leaving even my self behind.

O mountain of self-existence, stay out of our way.

We're on our way to Mount Qaf and the Anqa.


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