Wednesday, February 14, 2018

The Love Poems of Rumi

Happy Valentine's Day! What better day than today to take a look at Rumi's love poetry, as translated by Nader Khalili. The folks at the Quarto Books were kind enough to send me a copy of this beautiful book of poetry to review. Today I share it with you.

Love Poems

The Love Poems of Rumi; as translated by Nader Khalili, © 2015, Wellfleet Press

Reviewing a book of poetry is a tricky thing. Poetry is personally subjective. It is full of emotions, personal reflections, and poetic turns of phrase that spring forth from a poet's heart. Who is a critic to call it good or bad?

Such is my challenge.

Add to that, the fact that this is a translation from Rumi's works, and the prospect is daunting at best. Sure, I can comment on the artistic license that Nader takes in not including any capitalization or punctuation [Do I attribute that to Nader or Rumi? I would think Nader, as Rumi wrote in Persian, which is a whole different alphabet. Nader offers the English, therefore makes his call on translation and interpretation]

Regardless, I personally find 'i' distracting from the poetry as a whole. I want to correct the text every time I see the lower case letter. My sritique, but certainly not enough to take away my pleasure in these poems. If anything, I suspect we are to put less stock in 'i' the self, versus the bigger concept of capital L Love. Love is so much bigger than mere i in the grand scheme of things.

So perhaps we should delve into the text then, as Love is certainly the theme of the poetry inside the ornate pages of this book. Translation aside, the words of Jalāl ad-Dīn Muhammad Rūmī are enough to sweep anyone away with their beautiful and heartbreaking prose that reaches through the ages. For despite the fact that Rumi lived from 1207-1273, I am sure that many can relate to these universal feelings we ache from; the pathos of Love.
anyone who is not in love
cannot be as light as a soul
like moon and stars
cannot be orbiting restlessly
hear it from me
as the final word
a flag can never dance
with no air and no wind
I would be remiss, if I did not share
some of the beautiful murals
found within the pages of the book
Ah, do we not all dream of the mythical ideal of love to give us air to breathe and stars in the sky. It is love that makes it so...
love is
a mirror
you see nothing
but your reflection
you see nothing
but your real face
Should we seek outside ourselves to find this love though? Reading this and several other poems leads me to conclude the answer is not necessarily so. It can be found within and without. Love is joy and suffering. It is a journey we are privileged to be a part of.

Wise council fair Rumi. Thank you for these interpretations Khalili.

But lest we give up on earthly love, and the boundless challenges that come with it, there are still many lines which offer hope to those still looking for love this Valentine's Day. The journey may be long and hard, but Master Rumi suggests the path is necessary and infinitely worth it. Khalili gathers these thoughts together and counters them in subsequent pages, but the message rings out throughout—Love is...

There are so many more lovely images, but I will share these last lines for auspicious lovers to be today. May you find your sweetheart friends! I have many more poems to ponder, as I wander along my own journey towards Love.
this heart will one day
find you a sweetheart
this soul will one day
take you to the beloved
seize your pain as a blessing
your pain will one day
lead you to healing

Tuesday, February 13, 2018


March, by Geraldine Brooks, ©2005, Viking

It seems appropriate to have read March during February—Black History Month. This novel is set during the American Civil War, as people raged against each other in the name of black emancipation. While a work of fiction, it touches on some of the many historical events of the day, many of them heartbreaking. More interesting for me though, was the fact that this book is an imagined perspective from Mr March, the absent father from Louisa May Alcott's Little Women. And while I don't usually go in for fan fiction, this novel is a worthy read in its own right (won the 2006 Pulitzer Prize for fiction).

Brooks readily notes that she takes license with some of the time periods, but she did her homework before writing this book. She started with Little Women, but dug deeper into Alcott's own personal history, where Little Women was born. In fact, Alcott's father became the model for Mr March. Some of the supporting characters who appear throughout Brooks' book are taken directly from historical letters shared between Bronson Alcott and Henry David Thoreau and Ralph Waldo Emerson, neighbours of the Alcott family. Mr March's strict vegetarian lifestyle and support of racial equality were also point of fact from Alcott's life. One must remember though, that this is a work of historical fiction.

I must admit, I did not always like the character of Mr March. He strove to control his wife's hot temper too frequently for my sensibilities. That would have been common for the day, but that was what attracted him to her in the first place. And would his beloved Marmee really have been so outspoken during such a tumultuous time? Perhaps, but it seems unlikely. Again though, a work of fiction derived from another classic piece of English literature.

Mr March was a stalwart in his fight for what he believed was right though, and however misguided he sometimes was, one must applaud the courage he took to stand in the face of the popular belief of the day and the rampant abuses that were slavery in the 1800s. Seeing snippets of the Underground Railroad, the bloody battles, the horrific medical practices, and the people who lived through those turbulent times was interesting though. So many heroes, even while they strived to be human at best. For perhaps to give a genuine care to our fellow humans, is the most heroic of deed of all.

"I simply ask you to see that there is only one thing to do when we fall, and that is to get up, and go on with the life that is set in front of us, and try to do the good of which our hands are capable for the people who come in our way."
~ Grace Clement; quote from March by Geraldine Brooks

Monday, January 29, 2018

A Gentleman in Moscow

A Gentleman in Moscow; by Amor Towles, © 2016, Viking

As most anyone knows, Russia has had a tough history. There have been wars, civic upheaval, glittering triumphs, and questionably dark events. This novel is set in the midst of some of them.

In 1922, Count Alexander Ilyich Rostov is arrested by the Bolsheviks. His crime—being too Aristocratic. And it is true. Having lived a privileged life, Rostov moved in elite circles, rubbing elbows with the Upper Class of Russia and the world,  all while appreciating the finer things in life. But that all ended with a poem that sent him back to the Metropol Hotel under house arrest, never to leave again. Effectively, he became a non-person.

This is where this sweeping novel begins, and, despite never truly leaving the confines of the hotel, where we get to reflect on the events transpiring outside the Metropol's doors. As despite the fact that Rostov can never leave the hotel, the world still walks through its elegant lobby.

So while Rostov readjusts to life in a cramped attic room, a far cry from the generous suites he was previously used to, life still happens. And while the story is slow to unfold, one cannot help but be swept up in Rostov's reflections on it. There are touching scenes of love, friendship, fealty, honesty, and deviousness that are hard to resist. My favourite scene being when Rostov is led into the cellar to view the vast wine collection, only to find not a label in sight. I too was aghast at the travesty of it and couldn't put the book down from there.

While the book is a work of fiction, Towles adds plenty of historical events to set his stage. For fans of Russian literature, I'm not sure if this novel would hit the mark, but I found it worth the read and look forward to discussing it further with my book club when we meet. 

Tuesday, January 23, 2018


I scribe illusion
from the truths inside of me
who would believe them

* inspired from a prompt from Colleen's Weekly Tanka Tuesday
I used synonyms for #write and #myth

Tuesday, September 26, 2017

The Clay Girl

Heather sent a care package for my book club
She wanted to be here in person, but we figured out the next best thing...
Last night, my book club reconvened for the year. We take the summer off, as most people are busy and all over the place. In June, we plan out some of the books we plan to read over the course of the year, then take the summer to tackle a few of the TBR pile. By September, we are ready to get back into it.

It is hard to believe that my little book club is into year 9 already. Where does the time go? We have grown into a pretty vibrant group of women though, and I wouldn't trade my ladies in for anything. As I hosted this month, I decided to start our year with a little pizzazz. First, let me tell you how I came to pick up The Clay Girl though.

The Clay Girl 

by Heather Tucker

A table set with wine and Clay Girl treats

Back in the spring, a girlfriend of mine recommended The Clay Girl, by Heather Tucker. From the first page, she loved the prose and the story. As I respect her literary opinion, I too picked up the book. I am always looking for a new book to read, plus I needed a recommendation for my book club. As soon as I started to read Ari's story, I was sold too.

With the power of social media, Corrie's praise attracted the attention of Heather. She commented on Corrie's Facebook thread and I chimed in too, telling Heather that I would be recommending the book to my book club. One thing lead to another and Heather agreed to join us virtually when we met up in September. Yippee!

Jasper love - bookmarks, book stickers,
cards & recommendations
So come this week, Heather and I sat down to figure out Skype. A few hiccups later and all I had to do was set out food, wine, and wait for my ladies to show up. By 8pm, we were ready to call Heather. It was time to discuss the book.

The Clay Girl opens with Ari, an 8-year-old girl, alone and on her way to an unknown aunt's house in Cape Breton. While some of the women in my book club were challenged with the early pages of the book, the story is written from Ari's perspective, and she is a confused young lady just come from a very traumatic experience. It makes sense that the tale is slightly harder to follow, as Ari herself doesn't know what to expect and what is going on. As Ari grows though, her voice and story matures. Before you know it, you are hooked.

We were lucky to have Heather share insights into the book
and her writing of it via a Skype chat
I should share that this story resonated with many of the members of my book club. We are made up of women, mothers, teachers, social workers, lawyers, and people concerned about the world—many of the very people who should have been and were there for Ari. While Ari's world is a dismal one—a drug-addicted mother, an abusive stepfather, a father who commits suicide in front of Ari's sisters, to name a few challenges—she also has a wonderful support system behind her helping her to navigate an extremely challenging childhood. In our discussion with Heather, we learned more about her take on those supportive people and how they influenced Ari's world.

Really though, this book is about resiliency. Yes, Ari has people in her world who help to catch her so she doesn't fall too far, but it is truly herself who fords her path. She leans on people around her, but the strength is all hers. I love how she might have come from a compilation of different people in Heather's life, but Ari was her own force to be reckoned with. The beautiful poster that Heather sent along with book marks and book stickers sums up Ari's inspiring outlook on life.

Dream BIG, be grateful, give, share, hope... You will find the way, if you only believe. Thank you Heather and thank you Ari. Pick up this book and be inspired.


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