Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Rumi Day by Day by Maryam Mafi

Rumi Day by Day by Maryam Mafi is a collection of excerpts from some of the numerous poems of the Sufi poet Jalāl ad-Dīn Muhammad Rūmī known for his mysticism.  But this is not just another translation of a prolific writer who is already so ubiquitous even in Western literature that most people will recognize his name. 

Instead of being a collection of some of his poetry, Mafi has taken two or more lines of verse and created a collection that reads less like poetic verse than like a collection of pithy aphorisms.  There are many who avoid reading poetry because it’s too hard, or at least harder than prose.  Instead of work for understanding, they avoid poetry altogether and for those people, who might otherwise never read Rumi’s gorgeous poetry, this book is a worthy addition to the wealth of previous published English translations.

However, I love poetry.  I love the relationship that is created between me, the reader, and the poem and, through the poem on the page, the poet.  By reducing Rumi’s verse to couplets or quatrains of concise text is fine for an introduction but reduces the sublime majesty of his poetry to what someone might find in a meme on the internet.  Nice but no longer magical.  My hope is that Mafi has not merely watered down great literature but has, instead, created a doorway through which those who are afraid of poetry will dare enter with confidence and expectation.  If they like what Mafi offers, they will adore Rumi’s poetry, much the way a child may like baby food but an adult knows the joys of a delicately seasoned meal.   This is my hope, anyway. 

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