It has been a long time since I read something about Persian poet and Sufi major figure, Rumi, and I also wanted something different, perhaps a light book to dwell into for a while. Rumi: Unseen Poems, by Maryam Mortaz and Brad Gooch, was exactly what I was looking for in that moment, but it also turned out to be the kind of reading I needed.
This book collects several of Rumi’s never before published poems, several of which made me think about a different myriad of topics. Love, faith, passion, devotion, and even homosexuality. You never know what he is referring to or if the author was exaggerating anything. There are poems that feel more natural and organic than others, but all of them, with no exception, move you from the inside out if you read them carefully.
Rumi: Unseen Poems makes you see all these topics, even more, under a different point of because. They could mean whatever you want, although some are pretty direct or so they look like. The beauty in these texts relies in the different ambiguity levels they have. Maryam Mortaz and Brad Gooch did a good job keeping the beauty of Eastern poetry when bringing verses into English for a wider audience.
Perhaps one of the major topics was Rumi’s admiration for Shams of Tabriz, a name that I read over and over again. It is this same admiration that makes me think if the poet was in love with another man and decided to express it under layers of faith, belief and appreciation, sometimes even wonder or almost explicit declarations of love.
It is strange to find this uncertainty in Rumi: Unseen Poems, even more if we consider that the poet live in the ancient Persian world, but I am sure it is what made them all the more interesting to Maryam Mortaz and Brad Gooch. I can say it was the case for me, hoping it will also be for future readers. You don’t find this in a book often.
The different styles and techniques used, particularly that of artistic repetition and keeping some of the texts rather short made of this a more entertaining book. I found it easy to take a rest from it now and then, taking my time to savor the experience and meditate a bit about the content, even the context under which each of poems could have been written.
Although I am not an avid reader of the genre, Rumi: Unseen Poems made me definitely fall in love with Rumi’s work. I had already taken an interest in his work, but after reading this I want to know more about him, his life and get my hands in more of his poetry. He had a magical sense of aesthetic that made it all look more beautiful than it actually was.
Maryam Mortaz and Brad Gooch perfectly keep this style, and although you end up wanting more, the book is long enough to keep you satisfied for a while. I never thought such devotion, a man’s religiosity and feelings could be expressed in a simple but artistic way, yet conjure different images and ideas. Was Rumi a homosexual? Was he just an admirer? Did he see the world in a sigh? You will have the same questions upon finishing Rumi: Unseen Poems.
About the Book:
Print Length: 244 pages
Publisher: Everyman’s Library (September 10, 2019)
Publication Date: September 10, 2019.
About the Authors
Rumi was born in 1207 in Central Asia. He founded the mystic Sufi order known to us as the Whirling Dervishes, who use dance and music as part of their spiritual devotion. He died in 1273 and his burial place in Konya, Turkey, remains a shrine to this day.
Brad Gooch, best-selling author of Smash Cut, Flannery, and City Poet, wrote the first popular biography of Rumi, Rumi’s Secret, which was published in 2017 to critical acclaim.
Maryam Mortaz is an Iranian-American writer, translator, and author of the short story collection Pushkin and Other Stories.
About the Reviewer
Bader Saab is a digital journalist and solitary, eclectic witch interested in the darker side of magic and divination. Besides reading and writing, Bader also enjoys studying the Gothic subculture, which he belongs to, learning new languages and making endless lists of movies, music and the like. He can be found on Instagram as @saab.bader.