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Coleman Barks in an interview on spirituality

Coleman Barks is a poet whose translations of the 13th century Sufi mystic Jalal al-Din Rumi are the best-selling poetry books in America. When I asked him, “How important is spirituality in your everyday life?,” his answer illustrated how spirituality can guide us through our lives.

“It’s the whole thing,” Barks said. “I love that old story about a theologically inclined bunch of fish who schooled together and discussed the possibility of the existence of the ocean as they swam in it. They divided up into study groups as they tried to figure it out… I’ve felt that mystery my whole life. The first poem that I was drawn to write was about an image of laying back in a river, so that your ears are under water and your eyes are out of water. You have an underwater world that you can listen to and an out of the water world that you can see. The underwater world seems to be further away. You can hear around the bend. You can hear a motorboat coming. That way of being in two places at once is an image of how it feels to be me. I feel like my ears are underwater most of the time!”

This Post Has 2 Comments

  1. Dear Gene, Thank you. I love what Coleman Barks said about “being in two places at once.”

    Luci Shaw’s poem, “The amphibian” also expresses this. “She moves/in two worlds, caught between/upper and under, never home.” From her book, Polishing the Petoskey Stone (1990, The Wheaton Literary Series). She also has a website.


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