26th Year of Inspiring Words and Music

Opening Voice

Coleman Barks

“One of the greatest pieces of good luck that has happened recently in American poetry is Coleman Barks’ agreement to translate poem after poem of Rumi….Coleman’s exquisite sensitivity to the flavor and turns of ordinary American speech has produced marvelous lines, full of flavor and Sufi humor, as well as the intimacy that is carried inside American speech at its best.” —Robert Bly


Coleman Barks has, since 1977, collaborated with various scholars of the Persian language (most notably, John Moyne) to bring over into American free verse the poetry of the 13th Century mystic, Jelaluddin Rumi. This work has resulted in twenty-two volumes, including the bestselling Essential Rumi in 1995, two appearances on Bill Moyers’ PBS specials, and inclusion in the prestigious Norton Anthology of World Masterpieces. The most recent translation is Soul Fury and Kindness, the Friendship of Rumi and Shams Tabriz (2014). The Rumi translations have sold over a million and a half copies. It is claimed that over the last fifteen years Rumi has been the most-read poet in the United States. In October 2010, HarperOne published Rumi: The Big Red Book, which collects all of the work on Rumi’s ghazals and rubai that he has done over the past thirty-four years. Sounds True has published a 3-CD set of recordings of Coleman with Grammy-award winning cellist, David Darling, Just Being Here: Rumi and Human Friendship.


Dr. Barks taught American Literature and Creative Writing at various universities for thirty-four years, and has published eight volumes of his own poetry. The Univ. of Georgia Press published WINTER SKY: Poems 1968-2008 in September of 2008. More recently in 2012, HUMMINGBIRD SLEEP: Poems 2009-2011. In 2004, he received the Juliet Hollister Award for his work in the interfaith area. In March 2005, the US State Dept. sent him to Afghanistan as the first visiting speaker there in twenty-five years. In May of 2006, he was awarded an honorary doctorate by the University of Tehran. In 2009, he was inducted into the Georgia Writers Hall of Fame. He is now retired Professor Emeritus at the Univ. of Georgia in Athens. He was born in 1937 in Chattanooga, Tennessee and educated at the University of North Carolina and at the University of California, Berkeley. He has two grown sons and five grandchildren, all of whom live near him in Athens, Georgia.