Reading Rumi: Selected Poems, translated by Coleman Banks
I’m currently reading a translation of the work by the Persian poet Rumi. Jelaluddin Rumi was a 13th century mystic and an islamic scholar. His poetry speaks of love, passion, spirituality, and being human. I was raised in the islamic faith myself, regularly observing daily rituals but always more interested in the spiritual aspect of things. Discovering Rumi has been a delightful surprise - it holds meaning for me in the context of the faith both the poet and I were raised in, and it still remains meaningful when that faith is no longer present.
I recently read an article in the New Yorker that criticizes Coleman Banks’ approach to the translation, insinuating that this version of Rumi’s poetry is more of an interpretation than an actual translation. I am of the opinion that all translators put something of themselves in the work they translate. Banks was also accused of removing some the context, or “westernizing” his translations, which is a pity, but he will have to suffice for now. I can’t deny that I am thoroughly enjoying the poems I’m reading. The tragedy of not being able to understand every language is never knowing how the original author meant to say things, and the blessing is that sometimes we are gifted with translators who create something special.