Saturday, January 18, 2014

Rumi & Issa: Across Cultures, Across Worlds

Art by Gustave Dore

Recently, in my day job, the poetry group I moderate had a session on the mystic poet Rumi. It was the second best attended meeting, after our session on haiku.

I read lots of Rumi in preparation since, though I appreciated what I'd come across of his work randomly, I hadn't delved deeply. I learned a lot, including the controversy over the 'Americanization,' or New Age approach, to translating his works, which de-emphasizes certain specific religious aspects for a more general spiritual approach. 

While doing some background work, I ran across the following intriguing brief poem, or quatrain:

O my God, what irony it is
That we are at the bottom of hell,
And yet are afraid of
of immortality.
              translated by Nevit Oguz Ergin

Which immediately called to mind this:

           In this world
we walk on the roof of hell,
          gazing at flowers.
                    translated by Robert Hass

Could it be that, at the core of both these poems, from markedly different cultures, there is a single message? 

Could they be about our lack of attention to what is, both invisible and visible?

Of course even between two brief poems, there may be much that is dissimilar. Still, what is more important: the common ground or the disparities?

Art by Gustave Dore


so is haiku hell
over that-a-way...
mountain cuckoo?
translated by David G. Lanoue


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Gillena Cox said...

luv the theme threading, so excellent your selection; have a nice Sunday

much love...

Andrea Grillo said...

Don - you continue to amaze me in your pairings/perceptions. I do believe that there is "archetypal" energy, and if I can stretch this - poetry - nature that underlies and motivates all of us. A very nice Sunday Service as I gaze out my kitchen window and light snow is falling. Thanks once again.

Terri L. French said...

great observations.

Issa's Untidy Hut said...

Gillena, cheers ... glad you enjoyed it.

Issa's Untidy Hut said...

Thanks so much, Andrea - the poets seem to play their readers as instruments and this time they seem to be in the see key.

Love the window view ...

Issa's Untidy Hut said...

Terri, thanks. D.

mary f.ahearn said...

Enjoyed this so much - love the connections. As I read the first poem, my mind also flew to the Issa.
And then on to the Nicene Creed with your lines about the visible and the invisible- "maker of all things visible and invisible" - from my now long ago days of such recitations of faith.
Always thoughtful, these sermons of yours.

Issa's Untidy Hut said...


Ah, interesting connections - funny how our faith of long ago, seemingly long forgotten, can resurface in a flash.