The Gift of Rumi

Emily Jane O’Dell meets Rumi on his own terms, placing his compelling verses of ecstasy and of longing for the heart’s greater intimacy with the divine within the contexts of historical Islamic mysticism, while at the same time testifying to their enduring value “as a map for living virtuously and loving fiercely.” Embedded in a narrative that follows the pattern of a medieval dervish manual, the unadorned translations, playful and passionate by turn, are marked by rhythmic certainty and metaphoric precision.  This book is far more than another collection of Rumi’s poems in translation; it explores the tenets underlying these poems while at the same time opening fascinating vistas onto two remarkable lives – those of Rumi and of the author.

— John Emigh, Professor Emeritus at Brown University

So wild to write a book and have writers and thinkers I greatly admire read and enjoy it! I’ve been touched by all the kind words that readers and media outlets have shared about my new book, The Gift of Rumi (St. Martin’s Press) — including this lovely review from Publishers Weekly: “The author’s personal anecdotes usefully illustrate what Rumi’s spirituality looks like in contemporary practice, and the historical context opens up fresh ways of looking at the poet’s works. This makes for an excellent primer on Rumi.” I’m deeply grateful for all of the positive feedback, as I experimented in the book with form and was curious to see how the book’s mystic blend of translation, commentary, and personal narrative would be received.

In the crowded shelf of books about Rumi, there are a few books about Rumi’s life, and an increasing number that are or purport to be translations from the original Persian.  E.J. O’Dell’s The Gift of Rumi is both: It gives the right amount of context for people new to the study of Rumi, combined with original and fresh translations.  The Gift of Rumi is indeed a gift, and recommended to all lovers of Rumi!

— Omid Safi, Professor of Islamic Studies at Duke University & Founder of Illuminated Courses and Tours

To write The Gift of Rumi, I did word-for-word translations of Rumi’s poems from Persian into English, so readers can see what he really wrote (some previous translations edited out religious / spiritual references and added words and sentiments that Rumi never wrote). In order to contextualize the mysticism of Rumi’s poetry, I provided spiritual and historical commentary to unlock the deeper meanings of his poems.

This is an astonishing book. It tips rigorous scholarship, benevolent sympathy, and personal experience into the cauldron of Rumi’s poetry for the reader to then gradually withdraw a silken brew of spiritual compassion, guidance, and understanding. It gives us in the West intriguing new translations, but also a usable pathway toward adopting Rumi as a mentor for living in today’s world.

— Harold Augenbraum, Co-Founder, Yale Translation Initiative / Editor, The Collected Poems of Marcel Proust / Former Executive Director, National Book Foundation

I was very fortunate to do a 40-day mystic retreat in Istanbul with a Sufi master to learn how to whirl like a dervish and immerse myself in Rumi’s poetry and legacy.

The Gift of Rumi is the culmination of the lessons I learned in spiritual community with open-hearted dervishes in Turkey and around the world on my two decade trek along the Silk Road from China to Mali and many stops in between.

Zen priest and Unitarian Universalist minister James Ford, who writes a blog on Patheos called Monkey Mind, ends his early review of my book with these words: “What a lovely book. Do yourself a favor. Buy it. Do yourself another favor. Read it.” The book comes out on July 26th and you can pre-order it now at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, BAM, and Macmillian.

Personal, inspiring, and transporting, THE GIFT OF RUMI is one part
memoir, one part introduction to a great poet sage, and itself a gift.

— Gish Jen, The Girl at the Baggage Claim: Explaining the East-West Culture Gap