Rumi Dances Under the May 18th Moon

Rumi at La fontaine May 18

For all you Rumi fans out there!  A Rumi movie.

According to the the movie promoters, Rumi is America’s best-selling poet. Apparently, his popularity as the number one, daily, Facebook quote has helped him leap beyond the previous favorite, Lebanese- American, Khalil Gibran.  That, and the fact that his copyright expired several hundred years ago.

Poor Natasha Tretheway,  probably few of you have even heard of America’s 2013 Poet Laureate.  She has 1,861 Likes versus the Persian’s million plus.  Just give her another 800 years to build an audience.

raise your words not your voice rumi

Don’t get your tailfeathers in a tinzy, dear roosters.  Just having a little Rumi fun.  I LOVE Rumi.

Amazon, helpful reviewer, Nicholas Croft, wrote about the film,

“The first fifteen minutes of the video relate the biography of Rumi, who was born in Afghanistan during the year 1207. Rumi’s family moved to Turkey, where his father became the head of an Islamic Sufi learning community. Upon his father’s death, Rumi took his place as the head of this ancient community of prayer.

Rumi eventually met with a desert mystic named Shams of Tabriz and mentored under him for a number of years. The grief that Rumi felt, upon the death of Shams, led to the birth of his poetry of longing and also to the creation of the Whirling Dervish dance tradition.

The story of how Coleman Barks came to his decades-long project as translator of Rumi’s Persian texts is then revealed. We witness recording sessions where Mr. Barks reads from his acclaimed translations of the poet. These sessions are often accompanied with musical instrumentation such as the oud, harmonium, dotar, tabla, violin, ney and sarod. Video talks by the various scholars, which were often shot within beautiful natural settings, are interspersed among the studio sessions. All of these elements combine to suggest both the tone and the meaning of Rumi’s poetry.

Rumi – Poet of the Heart is a devotional work that gently guides viewers through an introduction to the life and spirit of one of America’s most widely read poets. Join with Coleman Barks and company to explore Rumi’s compelling inner secret world. You will be transformed through their intoxicating spirit of contagious enthusiasm.”

Saturday, May 18th is the quarter moon.  Where? La Fontaine Centre for Contemporary Art, of course.  This should be one of those beautiful nights we can be outside before the weather gets too hot.


Tonight – Colours of Light Poetry Festival


7:30 tonight the Poetry Festival takes place at the Bahrain Fort Museum.

Many of the poets who contributed to My Beautiful Bahrain and others who did not will be presenting their original poetry in both English and Arabic.

Directed by David Hollywood this promises to be in interesting evening.

Admission is Free.

The Colours of Life – Poetry Festival

When we say, “Let’s hear from you,” she advances to us

chanting fluently, her glance languid, in effortless song.”

– final verse from “The Ode of Tarafah” by Tarah ibn al-Abd

Bahrain’s earliest recorded poet was Tarafah ibn al ‘Abd born in 549AD.  But to simply call him a Bahraini poet belies his importance.  He was one of the seven Mu‘allaqāt, or the Hanging Ones, poets whose words were so highly prized they were written in gold onto Coptic linen and suspended over the Ka’ba in Mecca.

Bahrain’s sweet and salty sea, fishing dhows, pirates and pearls did not provide enough inspiration for Tarafah.  He left the island to roam the desert and write.    Although he did not travel as extensively as Ibn Battuta, he managed to journey through the Arabian Peninsula to Hira, in modern-day Iraq.    His poetic abilities preceded him but his uncourtly manners and satirical verses about King Amr ultimately led to his chosen execution – being filled with wine then bled to death.

Fifteen hundred years later, modern Bahraini poetry is attributed to Shaikh Ebrahim bin Mohammed Al Khalifa (1850-1933) for whom the Center for Culture and Research is named after.  An advocate for formal education including for women, Shaikh Mohammed bin Isa Al Khalifa (1876-1964) known as Al Waeli’s poetry had the greatest influence on the progressive movement.  Contemporary poetry grew with the founding of the Bahrain Writers Association in 1969 and with the “70s” and “90s”, poets who emerged in the 1970s and the 1990s.

It is quite an honor for the Second Circle, a poetry group guided by David Hollywood, to be invited by the Ministry of Culture to perform their poetry at Qal’at al-Bahrain (the Bahrain Fort) on the shore of the Arabian Gulf

The Colour of Light Festival will take place this summer solstice, Thursday, June 21st at 7:30pm.  The event is free and open to the public.

Part of the 2012 Manama Arab Capital of Culture events, this poetry festival will feature the poets reading their original works in both Arabic and English.  It is not quite the equivalent of a Hanging One, but being invited to perform at a UNESCO World Heritage site is not such a bad stage to star on.

It was from this spot, the capital of ancient Delmun, the Sumerian verses for Enki the Water God said,

“Let the city of Delmun become the port

For the whole world.”

The Most Beautiful Moon on the Walls

An Evening of Poetry, Music, and Singing:

The Most Beautiful Moon on the Walls with

Nasir Shamma, oud player

Rami Alyousif,poet

Dalal Abu Amna, Palestinian singer

Monday, 30 April at 8pm.  Sheikh Ebrahim Center in Muharraq Bahrain.

Post mortem.  I hope someone remembered to go see this.


The Snow Goose

Snow Goose in Iowa

Calm, indifferent

as if nothing’s transpired –

the goose, the willows

Haiku by Kobayashi Issa, 1762-1826, Japanese Poet

“I had no say in who I was” – Mahmoud Darwish’s Mural

Mahmoud Darwish Exhibit at Bin Matar House

The Arab world has a long tradition of poetry.

In the pre-Islamic era, in Northern Arabia, Bedouin poets challenged each other to verbal duels.  Before a panel of esteemed judges, they described their nomadic life.  Their poems typically began with a lament for an abandoned camp and a lost love.  In the second verse they praised their camel or horse and described their difficult desert journey to the fair.  The finale was a tribute to the poets’ tribes while their enemies were vilified. (

The most beautiful poems, the Mou’allaqat, became the Hanging Ones.  The poems inscribed in gold letters were hung on the Ka’ba – the sacred stone in modern Mecca.

In the Arab world, Mahmoud Darwish is the modern day Moudhahhabat or Gilded One.

The “savior of the Arab language” his thirty volumes of poetry have sold over two million copies.  Reporters wrote whether he read his poems in Cairo or Damascus thousands of people, from college professors to cab drivers, attended.

“He could not walk out in public without being recognized.”

Like his Bedouin predecessors, his poets are laments for his lost land and love, Palestine.  They describe his difficult journey to Lebanon after his upper Galilee village was destroyed by Israeli soldiers in 1948.  When his horse finally found its way back to Ramallah in the newly formed state of Israel, he began to write poetry reflecting his experience of exile.

Imprisoned several times for reading his poems, he eventually moved to the Soviet Union, Cairo, Tunis, Beirut, and Paris.  There he continued to lament Palestinian uprootedness while finding the courage, and humanity, to write about his Jewish friends, lovers and Israeli jailors in “tender, nuanced portraits”.

After a life-threatening heart surgery, Darwish’s focus changed to the personal experience that transcends all emotions and politics – death.

The Mural excerpts I posted,

Someday I will become a thought, a bird and a poet,

show Darwish became more metaphysical or Sufi-like.  Like others who are confronted with their own mortality, Darwish described his near-death experience;

I came before my hour so no angel approaches to ask:

what did you do over there in the world?

I don’t hear the chorus of the righteous or wailing of the sinners

I am alone in whiteness

alone …

Alone, in the center of a room at the Bin Mattar House is a 4×2 meter concrete wall echoing the Ka’ba.  Layered on gold sheets, a photographic print of the Mural manuscript is embossed onto its walls.

Until I visited the exhibit last week, Darwish was unknown to me.

His first book, Wingless Birds was published in 1960.  But it wasn’t until 2001 when he won the $350,000 Lannan Prize for Cultural Freedom that his works were widely translated into English.  After awarding his prize, this American foundation began translating his work and publishing it through the University of California Press.

“His courage in speaking out against injustice and oppression, while eloquently arguing for a peaceful and equitable co-existence between Palestinian Arabs and Israeli Jews is what motivated Lannan Foundation to honor him.”

French artists Marie-Francoise Rouy and Luc Martinez created this exhibit before Darwish’s death in 2008.  Normally Darwish destroyed his manuscripts.  But when this project was proposed, he agreed to write out the last lines.  This living wall is a place people can gather to hear him reading and feel his words with their hands.

Despite the fact that pre-Islamic poetry is etched into the Ka’ba,  its existence causes controversy and Imams debate its significance.  Darwish’s life and work written at this particular moment in time will continue to be a thorn in the side of those in power.

His elegy written on cement walls in Bahrain will probably be the closest this Moudhahhabat’s work will come to hanging alongside his Bedouin predecessors.

Mahmoud Darwish’s Mural  is a multimedia and interactive art installation by artists Marie-Francoise Rouy and Luc Martinez.  It will continue through 31 June 2012 at the Bin Mattar House in Muharraq, Bahrain.

One Day I’ll Become a Poet

On the River Jordan is a site called Bethany Beyond the Jordan. It is said to be the place where John baptized Jesus. It is on the Jordanian side of the river. The water is very low because further upriver the river was dammed and the water diverted.

One day I’ll become what I want

One day I’ll become a poet

Water obedient to my vision

My language a metaphor for metaphors

I don’t speak or indicate a place

Place is my sin and subterfuge

I am from there

My here leaps from my footsteps to my imagination…

I am from what was or will be

I was created and destroyed in the expanse of the endless void.

– pg. 11 from Murals by Mahmoud Darwish

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