Tag Archives: Rumi

A Rumi-Quote in Three Languages

A timeless spiritual and philosophical mind, Rumi has recently captivated my attention with a yet another meaningful statement. I had run into the quote in its German version, and then translated it into English and Turkish:

“Ich habe viele Menschen gesehen, die keine Kleider an hatten; ich habe auch viele Kleider gesehen, in denen keine Menschen waren.”

“Çok insan gördüm ki, üstlerinde giysi yoktu; çok ta giysi gördüm, içlerinde insan bulunmuyordu.”

“I have seen many people who did not have any clothes on them; I have also seen many a clothing, in which no person was found.”



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. . .

Shine like the whole universe is yours.


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Rumi and I

My early schooling in Turkey was one such that included the study of classical poets. I, therefore, “met” Rumi at a very young age. I remember having been enchanted by the melodic tempo of our teacher’s reading voice. I believe she had mostly read from his Divan and Mesnevi. Did I understand the meaning of those verses? No. I always waited with my landmark eagerness for our teacher’s explanations. Then, many years later, came a time when I found myself at the mercy of my own reading from Rumi. For my dissertational research, that is. About 2 years after earning my degree, an extended book manuscript of mine was published. In it, I had torn apart  a considerable number of 19th and 20th-century German-speaking writers who had been inspired – positively or negatively, by these two timeless poets from the Muslim Orient. Just when I was about to conclude (!) that I had seen all of Rumi’s available writings, and that I could claim some authority over their content, his following words showed up. (It could very well be, of course, the quote below belongs to someone who may be laughing right now at my gullibility . . . for having constructed a Rumi-line).

What, regardless, are your thoughts regarding the cited sentiment?

“Do you think I know what I’m doing? That for one breath or half-breath I belong to myself? As much as a pen knows what it’s writing, or the ball can guess where it’s going next.” ~ Rumi




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Social media and human connections

In March, several facebook friends and myself have created an event – in a Turkish tradition (I was the only representative of Turkey, so to speak): Aşıklar Bayramı, a.k.a. Aşıklar Atışması.


asik_veysel_by_metalfaust copy


Aşıklar is the plural of “aşık” to which the Turkish language lends two meanings: lover and the one who is in love with a married person. In the context of the tradition I mention here, however, the word identifies a “minstrel.” It is all about composing poetry (in any format) on cue but to accompany it with a musical creation, also on cue, and by the contestant poets, at that (in Turkey, they have to know how to play “saz” – one of the most popular Turkish folk music instruments).

Hmm. Trouble, right? How on earth can a group of non-Turkish innocent bystanders (!) collaborate – online of all the places – to recreate the Minstrels’ Festival or Minstrels’ Cross-Talk of Turkey, not knowing how to play “saz” (myself included)? Well, we have improvised, of course, and thanks to the most delightful participants’ generosity as far as giving their time and attention, the event was quite an accomplishment. All participants and hosts enjoyed the outcome so much that I want to share with you what we have done. Amid the hustle and bustle we all have to do day in and day out, maybe this unusually pleasant memory of ours will also give you a reason to take a fresh breath of air for a change. Especially, if you picture yourselves in a land of sunshine, in a large hall filled with much laughter from all ages because of much good-willed teasing that goes on before each competition. Imagine then poets taking you into their imagined realities wrapping them up in colorful musical compositions – all unrehearsed. Perhaps, the way we all should be living life at least on one occasion or two…

At the time of our facebook event, we provided our guests with some background information on this tradition that for centuries has enriched life in Anatolia, taking place in different regions of today’s Turkey. I will give you the same insights here, including the legendary folk song by Aşık Veysel Şatıroğlu (1894-1973) – the icon of the Turkish Aşık Minstrel Poetry tradition:



When we come forward several decades to a contemporary Turkish society, we mostly observe, as in the video below, the traditional “only men” gathering. The first “Aşık” – with the respectful selection (a required step) of his co-poets – begins composing his couplets on the spot. He happens to select a rather sore topic in cheerful and loving words and mannerism (also required): balding. Please help yourselves with the video for a few seconds to participate in the uplifting mood of the minstrels but also of the audience members. Smiles all around! (Who needs to understand the language of the program?)



The following live coverage presents a new tradition in Turkey, an initiative by women who either self-taught to play the “Saz” – a necessity, or learned it from the masters to now voice their views on life matters.  A few seconds (or more) of a fun experience on an untraveled path, where one woman sings and plays the required instrument in competition with her male counterparts! (Once again: no need to understand the language of focus. The feel is real and there to breathe in, isn’t it?)



Mixed with interviews, the video program below, then, gives a deeper insight into the transformation of the same ancient folk poetry tradition in the hands of Turkey’s female minstrels. (To a peaceful union between the genders – poets and non-poets alike!)



What did we do on facebook at the time of our event to unite several people from various parts of the world? We asked them to spontaneously compose poetry after listening to a melodic prompt of our impromptu posting – for which we used ethnic traditional music. Whoever posted his/her couplet first, had the lead, which meant for the next poet to harmonize with the poetic mood, symbolism, diction, etc. of the preceding poetic lines – just like in the Aşık tradition. Then, the next poet would honor the same established poetic composition, add to it his/her couplet, and so on. Some comments about this experience included “fun, yummy,  delicious, lovely, inspiring.”

The final product comes to you as it was created on cue, in its unedited, unrevised version. The music prompt came from an African Music Compilation and the couplets were created in the following order (only the font style and size were modified and capitalization was added for the uniform external appearance):


Raindrops falling on drum tops.

When I dance to it my sadness stops.

The heartbeat of each creature is

The music of nature…

As if let loose from shackles my spirit filled with joy

When the beating of the drum reach my eardrum

I- wind rushing

Breathe- soul brushing

With- consuming fires

Desire- fingerless lyres

Like a waterfall?

Body turns into fountain sweat drops

Quenching the heat of passion

Moving for all time

Marking out rhythms and rhymes

Unconscious of ebbs and flows

Here doing only what it knows.

A canvas of fire I see

A sky burning for me

A singe atop of my skin

A grace thermal within

The sun shines brightly through the rain.

Traditionally, a hyena is born in Spain

The scorching sun blowing the breeze of comfort

Was told a lion just take to bed just in Spain without pain


One of our dear hosts, Kolade Olanrewaju Freedom, an accomplished poet and the author of The Light Bearer also composed verses (his impeccable talent should not be overlooked here – although, as he said during our event, “I did write something, being a host forbids…”). With his couplet, dearest Kolade embraced everyone’s work with his own right at the end, when parting started feeling rather cold:


The sun buries its head

As sleep lures me to bed

Hearing the sounds of a gong

A rhythmic melodious song….


My inspiration to conceive such an event was my utterly close familiarization with the humanist teachings of Rumi through my academic studies that now span over multiple decades.




The call this Anatolian Sufi poet makes to humanity in his following stanza seems timeless to me, especially in our century when the storms of divisiveness keep causing complete destructions. Rumi invites all to unite instead:

Come, come again, whoever you are, come!

Heathen, fire worshipper or idolatrous, come!

Come even if you broke your penitence a hundred times,

Ours is the portal of hope, come as you are.

(As quoted in Turkey: A Primary Source Cultural Guide, 2004 by Martha Kneib)


Rumi’s philosophy of peace and love in the front of my mind, as always, the words by the Russian-American linguist and literary theorist, Roman Jakobson (1896-1982), then, had appealed to me as a most befitting framework:

“In poetic language, in which the sign as such takes an autonomous value, this sound symbolism becomes an actual factor and creates a sort of accompaniment to the signified.”

My guided interest had been taking me over and over to the key words present in the Jakobson statement: “the sign, sound symbolism” and “accompaniment to the signified” – of course, with me interpreting them in the way I needed and wanted to shape them. And then, another dear facebook friend presented us right before our event had begun – without knowing – the most critical sign I had been looking for. If a poeto-musical event could bring together people who don’t know each other outside a social media platform we all tend to assess as being fully impersonal, imagine what human interaction can take place, were such efforts to be multiplying all over the world…


for my March 16 2014 FB event.Les Bush Poet


~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

Whether through music, poetry or any other joyous aspect of life’s gifts, may you always connect to and harmonize with an unknown soul despite our learned or too often forced disparate realms. May you on this Sunday and on many more days to come ‘cuddle’ with any and all differences that only on the surface separate us from one another.


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Episode 13, What the Glass Contains: A Podcasting Interview I Had with Austin Moss

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Rumi (1207 – 1273)

You were born with potential.
You were born with goodness and trust.
You were born with ideals and dreams.
You were born with greatness.
You were born with wings.
You are not meant for crawling, so don’t.
You have wings.
Learn to use them and fly.

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The Crying Pomegranate: Translation excerpts from a Dervish novel in German

Author’s biographical statement

Links to the author

From: Der weinende Granatapfel. A Dervish novel by Alev Tekinay. Phantastische Bibliothek: Band 249 (also: Frankfurt am Main: Suhrkamp Verlag, 1990).

The Crying Pomegranate


Violent jolts shook Ferdinand in his sleep; he rolled around in a swift move.  His body cringed; his cramped fingers grasping the creases of the bedspread; big drops of hot sweat on his forehead.  He sighed and groaned in his sleep, his lips half open, his throat completely dry.  He reached out his hand into the air, as if to catch something.  His breath was cut short, his heart in trembles with unease and a peculiar fear.

Ferdinand wanted to have a tight hold of the images – not to forget or lose them again.  His hand fell back onto the bed like a dead bird, the impact of it waking him up. In heavy exhaustion, he opened his eyes.  Exhausted, as if he had just had a fight against the powerful images that once again left him in defeat.

Without turning on the nightlight, he sat up in his bed, his fingers searching for the cigarette package.  He loved the gentle darkness; he found solace in it.  Like a mother, or a lover.  Yet, Ferdinand Tauber had neither a mother nor a lover.

He wiped off the sweat drops from his forehead with his pajama sleeve, lit a cigarette and smiled in muse at the fact how rapid the dream world was disentangling.

He never had such encumbering dreams as those of tonight, although he was to be considered a master of dreams.  In fact, he lived more in the dream world than in the real one.  Reality was to him only a surface, only a transparent skin over the unreal, higher world.

Ferdinand Tauber became even angrier in his realization how unable he was to remember the particular dream he had been having every night for some time now.  For how long, he couldn’t recall.

Only a few fragments were hanging on to his memory, as he tried in exhaustion to put them together like mosaic pieces.

When he woke up, his teeth were in a tight clench and his body felt like a gigantic log.  But now his body was loosening little by little and an indescribable feeling ran through his heart.  He felt how an unknown something moved in his innermost being, triggering that familiar sweet ache, the one that Ferdinand Tauber could not describe.

When he finally managed to gather some of the mosaic pieces, the images began to gain a stunning clarity, one that surpassed each reality of his student life thus far.  It seemed to be a hasty racing sequence without a central point.  But, no!  There was one.  It’s only that…as soon as the image stream began to flow toward this focal point, everything became non-transparent like a piece of muddy glass, and finally, real dark, pitch-dark.  In fact, now, only the last images remained bright and alive, those that Ferdinand wanted to touch before he woke up bathed in sweat:

With milky white sails, he was soaring on a sea that looked like a violet mirror lit up by a full moon.  Though the waves were gentle in their thrust against the ship, she tilted in a sudden move and began to sink.  Deeper and deeper, Ferdinand fell into the Abyss until all his senses vanished, until everything dissolved and was wiped out.

What was there before, though?  What was there before the mysterious sailing trip?

With strained brows Ferdinand forced his memory to play back the film.  Before, there was – before – a reddish glow and a – his memory flickered like a shooting star and – then it extinguished again.  How nearby, still, Ferdinand felt the central point; half a heart beat long, for a flash!

Suddenly, he remembered a recent conversation with Klaus in the university cafeteria.  Klaus, a TU student, to whom Ferdinand actually would not have credited this much imagination, spoke of a video camera that presumably filmed people’s dreams.  The next day then, one would be able to play the tape while forwarding or rewinding it as often as one desired.

Of course, Klaus did not know anything about Ferdinand’s nightly torments.  Not even Rudi, Ferdinand’s best friend and roommate, knew anything about them.  Rudi only knew Ferdinand was a dreamer from birth.  Ferdinand kept his nightly dreams of his lack of recollection a secret from his friend Rudi.  He was protecting this secret; he wanted to keep it to himself alone.

But in case one such video camera should ever be invented one day…With seriousness and a total concentration, Ferdinand stared at the ceiling, as if that were a television screen.  Then, he pressed on an imaginary button, forward and backward, further forward, until the reddish glow appeared.

Several figures were moving around in the hazy redness, obscured, in slow motion.  People?  Trees?  Buildings?

But then the figures became more and more blurry until they were lost in full disappearance and everything remained dead silent inside Ferdinand.  He got up, exhausted and shaking, went to the window, opened it and inhaled, in long breaths, the freshness of the night.  Actually, it wasn’t night anymore.  Pale streaks of light were crossing the horizon.  The day was already dawning over the mountains that the clear weather made visible from the windows of the big old building on Clemens Street.

The mountains in the blue distance always awakened in Ferdinand wanderlust and a sense of freedom, of unbounded freedom at the same time.

Not too long ago, when Ferdinand was still preparing for the exams, his longing for this freedom had become almost unbearable.  But now that the exams were over, that everything was over, his studies, the graduation…yes, Doctor Tauber…Ferdinand felt paralyzed.  He didn’t know what he was supposed to do with his new self, the graduated Orientalist, the doctor of philosophy.

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