Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Permission Granted: HSU Theatre Project Gets Rumi Poems

Virtually unknown in the West until recent years, the 13th century Sufi mystic known as Rumi is now one of the most popular and best-selling poets in America. Some say a principal reason is The Essential Rumi, a collection of verses translated by Coleman Barks.

HSU Theatre, Film & Dance emeritus professor John Heckel wanted to gather interested students and community members to create a theatre piece based on Rumi’s poems. But they would first need legal access to the poetry in order to explore, select and dramatize appropriate verses. “The whole project was dependent on getting the rights to these translations,” Heckel said.

But what could have been a complicated negotiation turned out not to be. Coleman Barks promptly responded to Heckel’s email inquiry with permission to use his translations from The Essential Rumi, as well as his many other volumes of Rumi’s work.

So now the Rumi project is on the HSU Theatre, Film & Dance performance schedule for December.

“The plan is to get a group of about eight students and some community members, read these translations and put together an evening of theatre, based on the life and works of Rumi,” Heckel said.

Coleman Barks was educated at the University of North Carolina and the University of California at Berkeley, and taught poetry and creative writing at the University of Georgia for 30 years. At the suggestion of poet Robert Bly, he began translating Rumi’s verses each day after teaching his classes, at first with no thought of publication.

Coleman Barks’ new compendium of translations from the past 34 years, Rumi: The Big Red Book, will be published in the fall.

There is keen interest in Rumi’s visionary poetry of peace and ecstasy on the North Coast, including among HSU students and alumni, John Heckel believes. “We’re inviting the community to participate in this project,” he said, “and we invite their help in bringing Coleman Barks to campus as part of it.”

Media: Humboldt State Now

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