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Coleman Barks

Born in 1937 in Chattanooga, Tennessee and educated at the University of North Carolina (BA 1959; PhD 1968) and at the University of California, Berkeley (MA 1961), 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-one 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 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 Barks has done over the past thirty-four years. More recently, Sounds True has published a three-disc set of recordings of Barks 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 seven volumes of his own poetry. The University of Georgia Press published Winter Sky: Poems 1968-2008 in September of 2008. In 2004 he received the Juliet Hollister Award for his work in the interfaith area. In March 2005 the US State Department 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 University of Georgia in Athens. He has two grown sons and five grandchildren, all of whom live near him in Athens, Georgia.

Selected Bibliography

Rumi: Soul Fury: Rumi and Shams Tabriz on Friendship (2014)
Hummingbird Sleep, Poems 2009-2011 (2011)
Rumi: The Big Red Book (2010)
Winter Sky: New and Selected Poems, 1968-2008 (2008)
The Essential Rumi (1995)

Online Resources


“Make me hungry enough so a crust of millet bread will taste like fine pastry. This is all one prayer: Give me the same longing that drives a wild-madman-lover out to look for what cannot be found.” (Coleman Barks and John Moyne, The Drowned Book: Ecstatic and Earthy Reflections of Bahauddin, the Father of Rumi)