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Coleman Barks

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Coleman Barks
Barks in 2004
Barks in 2004
BornColeman Bryan Barks
(1937-04-23) April 23, 1937 (age 87)
Chattanooga, Tennessee
GenreAmerican poetry
Notable worksGourd Seed, The Essential Rumi
SpouseKittsu Greenwood (1962–?, divorced)
ChildrenBenjamin, Cole
Barks reading at the Festival of Silence, Esvika, Asker, Norway, June 25, 2011

Coleman Barks (born April 23, 1937) is an American poet, and former literature faculty member at the University of Georgia. Although he neither speaks nor reads Persian,[1] he is a popular interpreter of Rumi, rewriting the poems based on other English translations.[1]

Early life and education


Barks is a native of Chattanooga, Tennessee. He attended the Baylor School, then the University of North Carolina and the University of California, Berkeley.[2]

Barks was a student of the Sufi Shaykh Bawa Muhaiyaddeen.[3]



Barks taught literature at the University of Georgia for three decades.

Barks makes frequent international appearances and is well known throughout the Middle East. Barks' work has contributed to an extremely strong following of Rumi in the English-speaking world.[4] Due to his work, the ideas of Sufism have crossed many cultural boundaries over the past few decades. Barks received an honorary doctorate from University of Tehran in 2006.[5]

He has also read his original poetry at the Geraldine R. Dodge Poetry Festival. In March 2009, Barks was inducted into the Georgia Writers' Hall of Fame.[6]

Rumi interpretations


Barks has published several volumes of his interpretations of Rumi's poetry since 1976, including The Hand of Poetry, Five Mystic Poets of Persia in 1993, The Essential Rumi in 1995, The Book of Love in 2003 and A Year with Rumi in 2006.[citation needed]

Original poetry


Barks has published several volumes of his own poetry, including Gourd Seed, "Quickly Aging Here", Tentmaking, and, in 2001, Granddaughter Poems, a collection of his poetry about his granddaughter, Briny Barks, with illustrations by Briny. Harper published his first book of poetry, The Juice, in 1972.[citation needed]


  • Barks, Coleman; Robert Bly (1989). Poems of Rumi (Cassette). Audio Literature. ISBN 0-944993-10-9.
  • Barks, Coleman; Hamza El Din; Steve Coughlin (1991). Like This: More Poems of Rumi (Audiobook). Audio Literature. ISBN 0-944993-14-1.
  • Barks, Coleman; Dorothy Fadiman (1993). Selections From Open Secret (Poems of the 13th Century Sufi Master Rumi) (Cassette). Coleman and Dorothy.
  • Barks, Coleman (1997). Dust Particles in Sunlight: Poems of Rumi (Cassette). Omega Publications. ISBN 0-930872-60-6.
  • Barks, Coleman. (1997). The Hand of Poetry (Cassette). Omega Publications. ISBN 0-930872-57-6.
  • Barks, Coleman. Mary Sinclair, Lory Messina (1997). The Woman Who Dressed As a Man: Poems of Attar (Cassette). Omega Publications. ISBN 0-930872-59-2.
  • Barks, Coleman (2001). I want Burning (CD) (Unabridged ed.). Sounds True Incorporated. ISBN 1-56455-830-4.
  • Barks, Coleman; Marcus Wise; David Whetstone; Robert Bly (2001). Rumi: Voice of Longing (CD) (Unabridged ed.). Sounds True Incorporated. ISBN 1-56455-832-0.
  • Barks, Coleman (2005). Rumi (CD). Canadian Broadcasting Corporation. ISBN 0-660-19370-1.

Other credits

Year Song Artist Album Role
2015 "Kaleidoscope" Coldplay A Head Full of Dreams Vocals (Interpretation of Rumi's "The Guest House"
2022 "Across the Oceans" Mamak Khadem Remembrance Vocals (Rumi interpretation)

See also



  1. ^ a b Barks, Coleman (2004). The Essential Rumi: New Expanded Edition. Harper Collins Publishers. p. 365. On the more literal level, the texts I work from to produce these poems are unpublished translations done by John Moyne, Emeritus Head of Linguistics at the City University of New York, and the following translations by Reynold Nicholson and A. J. Arberry, the famous Cambridge Islamicists...
  2. ^ "Coleman Barks". New Georgia Encyclopedia. Retrieved 2022-05-15.
  3. ^ Lawler, Andrew (October 2007). "Walking Around In The Heart Coleman Barks On Rumi, Sensuality, And The Path With No Name". The Sun. Retrieved 2022-06-05.
  4. ^ Holgate, Steve. "Persian Poet Conquers America". usembassy.state.gov. Archived from the original on 2007-06-22.
  5. ^ Staff writer (May 18, 2006). "University of Tehran grants honorary doctorate to Coleman Barks". Tehran Times. Retrieved 2022-06-05.
  6. ^ "Hall of Fame Honorees: Coleman Barks". Georgia Writers Hall of Fame. University of Georgia. Retrieved 2022-06-05.

Further reading