Wine Of Reunion

BOOK REVIEW by Willard Manus

The subtitle of this captivating, dual-language little book is the “Arabic Poems of Rumi.” Just published by Michigan State University Press, the book contains forty translations (by Nesreen Akhtarkhavari and Anthony E. Lee) of some of Rumi’s Arabic verses from his magnum opus, “Divan Shams-e Tabrizi.” None of them has been published in English before.

Rumi, who wrote mostly in Persian, was a 13th-century Islamic teacher, scholar and Sufi poet who became famous for his writings on the art of love. His mentor was Shams e-Din Tabrizi, a mystic Sufi master, who took Rumi under his wing, sharing meditation and spiritual exercises with him, only to suddenly disappear and resume his life of wandering.

As the translators explain, “Rumi was devastated, paralyzed with grief. For years, he searched for Shams, hoping to bring him back to Konya, but he never found him. In his inconsolable bereavement, Rumi poured out his thoughts and emotion in poetry, which became a vehicle for his love. In these poems, he tells about the agony that burned his soul. Rumi finally found some peace in realizing that his love for Shams was still inside him, and he returned to his clerical and teaching duties.”

The poems in WINE OF REUNION are broken down into five categories: You Are Beautiful, The Agony of Love, Wine of Reunion, People of Damnation and The Victory. Here is a typical poem, from The Agony of Love:

“Love told me a secret: struggle is the key.

That’s how you’ll find love and gain dignity.

Don’t rage at your lover. Don’t turn and flee–

you’ll find yourself in utter misery.

All day I was sober, my friends all drunk.

So hurry! Bring that blood-red-wine to me.”