Book Review: The Essential Rumi, by Jalaluddin Rumi, Translations by Coleman Barks

The garden of the world has no limits, except in your mind.



If Rumi is the most-read poet in America today, Coleman Barks is in good part responsible. His ear for the truly divine madness in Rumi’s poetry is truly remarkable.” — Huston Smith, author of “The World’s Religions”

The Essential Rumi” is a rare and precious book that will stir the hearts of Rumi devotees and win many new converts.“– Body Mind Spirit


This book came into my life in the most unexpected way and as a result of loosing a friendship I still mourn sometimes. Yet, I was introduced to Rumi’s poetry by an ex-poetic mentor and I became curious about his style of poetry.

Mowlana Jalaluddin Rumi is considered one of the great spiritual masters and poetical geniuses of mankind, and was the founder of the Mawlawi Sufi order, a leading mystical brotherhood of Islam (Schimmel, Annemarie.1991). Born and raised by theologians in the 13th century, Rumi’s poetry is considered passionate, deeply mystical ecstasy and painfully beautiful. His spiritual legacy has impacted Middle-Eastern & Central Asian Muslims for centuries; and he is the most famous poet in the Western World. Many have translated his written work, always finding new meanings to every word, every phrase or verse. I believe it is because Rumi’s poetry is not your “regular” poetry; it is a flow of words and has a certain rhythm, as if they were written in a song.

This is the only book I have of his poetry and would like to acquire more. However, I find this book complete in its attempt to understand, showcase and embody Rumi’s mystical work.

Ever since I can remember, I have a tremendous love towards Persian and Turkish culture (my apologies if they are not the same and I put them in the same sentence). When I was a teenager, I would ask my mother to buy CDs containing Turkish and Persian music, and (at some point) I wanted to learn Farsi language (Persian language). I always felt this connection to it (maybe I have an ancestor who dates back to Persia, who knows). But whatever the reason, Rumi’s poetry brings an unexpected peace to my soul that it is almost magical and connects me with this culture. I can have the shittiest day, then I open this book at a random page and boom! there it is, a poem just for the occasion. Sometimes I get it, sometimes I don’t, but later in the day (or the week, or the month) I get the picture.

Poetry in general can tell a story, but not in a narrative, like a novel. Thus, to really enjoy poetry one cannot sit an read a whole book; it can take a few days to finish reading it. And yet, you really don’t finish reading a poetry book; you always come back to it.

You see, poetry are small chunks of a story connecting to a grand one and those chunks can carry a different message in different moments of one’s life. That is what Rumi’s poetry does. It can take you to many stories within one poem or a few verses; each one connected to the other. I’ve had this book for 5 years now, and I always come back to it; just like I do with all my poetry books. Which, if you come to think of it…that’s how the soul really works out. It is not a linear path…it is a continuous dance through every life stage.

Synopsis taken from Goodreads


  • Schimmel, Annemarie. Look! This Is Love: Poems of Rumi. Boston, Massachusetts, Shambhala Publications, 1991.


Rating: 4 out of 5.

Published by Jennifer Rivera

I love reading books, listening to music for almost everything, and cannot start my day with (at least) one cup of coffee. In my native Puerto Rico, these things are heaven for a city girl like me, and I enjoy them alongside my husband and my two cats.

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