I know what you’re thinking: You’re wondering to yourself, “It’s already nearing February—what can I do in Salt Lake City to nurture and celebrate my love?” Mark your calendars: on February 7 at the Libby Gardner Concert Hall, poet and translator Coleman Barks will be accompanied by Grammy-winning cellist David Darling for an evening centered around the love relationship shared between the 13th century Sufi mystic Rumi and his teacher, Shams Tabrizi. The event, hosted by Two Arrows Zen and the Jung Society of Utah, will echo the night organized last year, which was met with ample enthusiasm from those who had the chance to attend. Machiel Klerk, of the Jung Society of Utah, says, “We were so mesmerized and really in love with both of these very special poets and musicians, as well as with the poetry of Rumi, that we wanted to invite them one more time.”
If you aren’t already acquainted with Rumi, I urge you to go to a library or local bookstore right now and open up a collection of poems translated by Coleman Barks (you’ll want to revisit them, trust me). Although Rumi’s poems have been translated before, Barks takes the literal word-for-word translations and warps them to mirror the spontaneity and childlike wonder of Sufi mysticism. Take a walk through their mystical poetry and feel your mind begin to dance. As Klerk reflects, “Coleman Barks and Rumi bring forth a way of being with life, a way of making a loving relationship with the world we live in by seeing life in a particular way. When we love life in that way, we experience a deeper sense of happiness and fulfillment.”
For those who attended last year, don’t expect a rerun of the same pieces. According to Klerk, “They never do the same performance twice.” Barks chooses the poems spontaneously the day of, and Darling improvises in response. This reflects the essence of Rumi’s philosophy, which revels in the impulses that happen on the spur of the moment. By playing on their personal friendship, the duo makes manifest the love shared in every relationship, whether it be personal, professional, romantic, friendly or spiritual. “Love helps you see into the invisible,” Rumi says (through a Barks translation), and as Klerk reflects, “The heart is a mystery that has a loving relationship with us, and we can have [a relationship] with this mystery. This poetry and the music transports one into a state in which we can experience that.”
The presence is the key. “It’s very important that one has the experience of ecstatic love, and that we don’t just read about it and philosophize about it. This event has the ability to do that,” Klerk says. As someone who was present for the event last year, you can take it from me: The energy will surround you with warmth and bliss, and there’s a good chance that something will resonate to your core to take home as a souvenir. “One of the nicest things [Darling and Barks] do is they give a way of looking at the world by which life opens up, opens up in a way that life becomes warmer, more beautiful, with deeper engagement, and therefore, life is experienced more joyfully,” Klerk says.
Although the event took place last year, this is not the beginning of a tradition. Klerk says, “That means that people should come now for this unique opportunity to see Coleman Barks, who is the most wide read poet of North America.” You can purchase your tickets online or by calling Brown Paper Tickets at 800-838-3006. Bring your books or some cash to purchase a book of poetry at the event, as Barks will be available for book signing following the performance. And while this production has a cost tied to it, be on the lookout for other free(!) events hosted by the Jung Society and Two Arrows Zen on their websites, or by liking their pages on Facebook.
Here’s a video of last year’s performance: