Coleman Barks, foremost Rumi translator, talks about the Persian mystic's timeless appeal and his own spiritual life

Whether it's about God or the pangs of earthly love, the poetry of Rumi is often startlingly modern, partly due to those who have translated his poems from 13th century Persian into many of the world's languages.

Coleman Barks, the world's best known translator of Rumi's work, is credited with helping make Rumi one of the most popular poets in the United States — Barks' 18 books of Rumi poems have sold more than 750,000 copies. His newest book, "Rumi: Bridge to the Soul," in honor of the 800th anniversary of the poet's birthday, came out Sept. 18.

Rumi, born on Sept. 30, 1207, was a theologian and follower of Islam's mystical tradition of Sufism. He founded the Mevlevi Dervish Order, also known as the whirling dervishes, and wrote thousands of poems, many of them ecstatic expressions of the Sufi notion that all things can be seen as manifestations of the divine.

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