Rumi's secret The life of the Sufi poet of love

Brad Gooch, 1952-

Book - 2017

The ecstatic love poems of Rumi, a Persian poet and Sufi mystic born over eight centuries ago, are beloved by millions of readers in America as well as around the world. He has been compared to Shakespeare for his outpouring of creativity and to Saint Francis of Assisi for his spiritual wisdom. Yet his life has long remained the stuff of legend rather than intimate knowledge. In this biography, Brad Gooch brings to life the man and puts a face to the name Rumi, coloring in his time and place--a world as rife with conflict as our own. Gooch traces this epic journey from Central Asia, where Rumi was born in 1207, traveling with his family, displaced by Mongol terror, to settle in Konya, Turkey. Pivotal was the disruptive appearance of Shams o...f Tabriz, who taught him to whirl and transformed him from a respectable Muslim preacher into a poet and mystic. Their vital connection as teacher and pupil, friend and beloved, is one of the world's greatest spiritual love stories. When Shams disappeared, Rumi coped with the pain of separation by composing joyous poems of reunion, both human and divine. Rumi's Secret reveals the unfolding of Rumi's devotion to a "religion of love."--From publisher description.

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New York, NY : HarperCollins Publishers [2017]
Main Author
Brad Gooch, 1952- (author)
First edition
Physical Description
x, 377 pages : maps ; 24 cm
Includes bibliographical references (pages 335-366) and index.
  • Prologue
  • Part I.
  • 1. "In a lightning flash from here to Vakhsh"
  • 2. Samarkand
  • 3. On the Silk Road
  • 4. "Fire fell into the world"
  • 5. Konya
  • 6. "I kept hearing my own name"
  • Part II.
  • 7. "The face of the sun is Shams of Tabriz"
  • 8. Separation
  • 9. "I burned, I burned, I burned"
  • Part III.
  • 10. "Last year in a red cloak... this year in blue"
  • 11. The Fall of Baghdad
  • 12. "Sing, flute!"
  • 13. "A nightingale flew away, then returned"
  • 14. The Religion of Love
  • 15. Wedding Night
  • Afterword
  • Acknowledgments
  • Note on Transliteration
  • Glossary of Names
  • Glossary of Terms
  • Maps
  • References
  • Notes
  • Index
Review by New York Times Review

ONGOINGNESS: The End of a Diary, by Sarah Manguso. (Graywolf, $14.) Out of a desire to record every detail of her life, Manguso, a poet, began keeping a journal over 25 years ago - and was so prolific that her entries reached about 800,000 words. In this slim volume, she reflects on the project and her efforts to guard against forgetting, death and "that great and ongoing blank." THE ARRANGEMENT, by Sarah Dunn. (Back Bay/Little, Brown, $15.99.) Owen and Lucy have fled New York City for the Hudson Valley, settling in a 200-year-old house and stocking the coop with chickens. But paradise has its downsides, and the couple rock their upstate idyll by trying out an open marriage. What begins as an affair with a man in the city develops into love, and Lucy confronts an old question: whether passion or stability will win out. RUMI'S SECRET: The Life of the Sufi Poet of Love, by Brad Gooch. (Harper Perennial, $17.99.) Few figures have had the same resonance and enduring popularity as Jalai al-Din Mohammad Rumi, the 13th-century Muslim mystic who has been a muse for everyone from Madonna to budding Pinterest spiritualists. Gooch investigates Rumi's life and theology, with a focus on his life-changing, and creatively rich, relationship with the mystic Shams. SNOWBLIND, by Ragnar Jonasson. Translated by Quentin Bates. (Minotaur/Thomas Dunne, $9.99.) It's 2008 and Ari Thor Árason, a recent police academy graduate in a remote Icelandic village, is investigating the death of a local author. "This classically crafted whodunit holds up nicely," our reviewer, Marilyn Stasio, wrote. "But Jonasson's true gift is for describing the daunting beauty of the fierce setting, lashed by blinding snowstorms that smother the village in 'a thick, white darkness' that is strangely comforting." I CONTAIN MULTITUDES: The Microbes Within Us and a Grander View of Life, by Ed Yong. (Ecco/HarperCollins, $15.99.) Yong, a British science journalist, investigates the vivid, all-encompassing realm of our microbiome - the essential microscopic organisms that help bolster our health and work in concert with our bodies to shape how they work. (By a recent estimate, only half the human body is made up of human cells.) A HORSE WALKS INTO A BAR, by David Grossman. Translated by Jessica Cohen. (Vintage, $15.95.) In the basement of an Israeli comedy club, Dovaleh G's routine quickly veers into tales of his tormented childhood. Grossman's novel won the Man Booker International Prize in 2017. Our reviewer, Gary Shteyngart, called it a "magnificently comic and sucker-punchtragic excursion into brilliance."

Copyright (c) The New York Times Company [February 11, 2018]
Review by Booklist Review

The best-selling poet in America is probably the medieval Persian Jalal ad-Din Muhammad Balkhi (1207-73), known by the place-specifier Rumi, meaning from Rome (the Byzantine Empire). At age five, he saw angels and once momentarily vanished from among his playmates, saving him from harm. His father trained him to succeed him as a preacher and jurist in Islam's mystical Sufi tradition. Attracted to literature, he began as a youth to write the traditional stanzas of Persian poetry and concluded with the Masnavi, six volumes of stories deeply informed by the Qur'an. He had four great spiritual teacher-companions, the last two of which he chose to lead the school he inherited from his father. The others his father and a wandering Sufi sheikh named Shams shaped his thought and religious practice. Shams, who both came to and left Rumi unannounced, catalyzed the ecstatic, total love Rumi envisioned in the thousands of short lyrics that eventually made Rumi famous in America. Though unable to make Rumi's life spellbinding reading, Gooch well illuminates the poet's world and his distinctive adaptation to it.--Olson, Ray Copyright 2016 Booklist

From Booklist, Copyright (c) American Library Association. Used with permission.
Review by Publisher's Weekly Review

In sometimes poetic, though sometimes prosaic and workmanlike, prose, Gooch (Smash Cut) provides an in-depth biography of Rumi, the great Sufi poet. He begins the book as he is retracing Rumi's footsteps in Aleppo in 2011, just before the outbreak of civil war, and is told by a resident that, "like your American poet Whitman," Rumi was a great poet because he never revealed his secret. Drawing deeply on Rumi's own writing, Gooch clearly recreates the life and times of this 13th-century mystic. Born on September 30, 1207, in present-day Tajikistan, Rumi soon showed his life would not be an ordinary one: when he was just five years old he reported seeing angels. His family set out on the road when he was still young, and Rumi met a pivotal influence, the poet Attar. As he grew in poetic stature, Rumi encountered the mystic Shams of Tabriz, who became a venerated teacher and taught Rumi the religion of the heart that became his own hallmark. In a close reading of Rumi's poetry, Gooch quotes two lines to reveal the titular secret: "explanations make many things clear/but only love is clear in silence." Gooch's biography can be plodding, but the story it tells is fascinating enough to compel readers to pick up Rumi's poetry and discover his secret for themselves. Agent: Joy Harris, Joy Harris Literary Agency. (Jan.) © Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.

(c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved
Review by Library Journal Review

Often called the greatest mystical poet of any age, 13th-century Persian poet and Sufi master Rumi has been appreciated for centuries beyond the confines of his birthplace. Gooch (English, William Paterson Univ.; Flannery) retraces the life and times of Rumi by highlighting important benchmark events in his life and by revisiting locations in central and western Asia where he traveled and lived. Rumi's story is full of mystery and meaning, or as Gooch puts it, full of secrets-personal, poetic, and theological: "Like Whitman, or like Shakespeare, he never tells his secret." Drawing loosely on past works on Rumi, this passionate and compelling biography provides a richness of context through which one can understand the life of the Sufi mystic from new and colorful angles. For many of his facts, the author relies on Franklin D. Lewis's Rumi: Past and Present, East and West. Gooch immersed himself in studying Rumi, taking intensive Persian courses, traveling 2,500 miles retracing the map of the poet's life, and began translating him in collaboration with an Iranian American writer. VERDICT Recommended for all libraries as well as anyone with more than a passing interest in Rumi and Sufi poetry.-Ali Houissa, Cornell Univ., Ithaca, NY © Copyright 2016. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

(c) Copyright Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
Review by Kirkus Book Review

An appreciative biography of the 13th-century Persian poet, teacher, and mystic.In researching the life of Rumi (1207-1273), Gooch (English/William Paterson Univ.; Smash Cut: A Memoir of Howard and Art and the 70s and the 80s, 2015, etc.) traced the poets steps through the Middle East, immersed himself in scholarship, and, impressively, spent years learning Persian in order to translate Rumis works and contemporary accounts of a poet who came to achieve enormous international popularity for his emphasis on ecstasy and love over religions and creeds. Born into privilege, the son of a religious teacher, Rumi was an eager student of history, philosophy, mathematics, astronomy, Arabic grammar, commentaries on the Quran, and religious law; he attended the most respected colleges, preparing to become a religious jurist and guider of souls. As Genghis Khan, and later his grandson, rampaged through the Middle East, Rumi was determined to rise above the churning realpolitik of the Mongols, confident that a higher power shaped historical events. His career as a scholar and teacher altered radically when he met Shams of Tabriz, a singular outlier mystic in a history crowded with extreme religious seekers. Shams was rude and uncompromising, opposite in personality from the gentle Rumi, but the two formed an intense bond, which Gooch sees as the essential secret of Rumis life and work. They withdrew together for many months, inciting jealousy among Rumis family. Shams goaded Rumi into sloughing off erudition and looking into his heart, introducing him to music, dance, extreme fasting, and ecstatic whirling. Gooch is generous in portraying 60-year-old Shams marriage to Rumis teenage stepdaughter as inspired by late-life blossoming of desire, despite evidence of the mans oppressive treatment of his young wife, which ended in her suspicious death. After two and a half years, Shams disappeared, possibly murdered, and Rumi despaired. But his influence lasted for the rest of the poets life, emerging in an outpouring of verse, which Gooch explores with passion and insight. A vivid depiction of the powerful religious forces that Rumi transcended to reveal the sound of one soul speaking. Copyright Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.

Copyright (c) Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.