A short essay on Rumi and Mirabai

Rumi and Mirabai’s poetry, in different ways, has the ability to convey a deep longing for something sacred in their time. Mirabai sometimes refers to herself in the third person that deepens her desperation of being heard by the dark one. In overall poetic structure, Mirabai’s work is seldom more than one page whereas Rumi’s poems tend to be several pages in length and the different sections broken down into smaller poems. After hearing the Songs of Mirabai in class, the persistent longing for love of the dark one makes much more sense. The human voice can convey deeper emotion than merely reading poetry in one’s own head. This is where the power of her words come through, even if they are not understood to the English speaking listener. Mirabai uses the image of restless sleep as an example of her in-completion.

Both of these poets say things in their work that I can only suppose would be somewhat controversial in their respective times such as Mirabai singing about wanting to be born as a man. Another device Mirabai uses in her writing are birth-to-death references, which I have recently learned to be one of the Buddhist exercises for awakening. As we have discussed in class, it is sometimes difficult to truly make a judgement on how a particular poet “reads” as it is up to the individual translator, within a certain poetic license.

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Of the two, I enjoyed reading Rumi the most. His writing is more like storytelling and I can follow it more easily. Rumi also has an underlying philosophy that Mirabai’s songs don’t contain. To him, intoxication can be a form of astral travel, and in finding this higher plane, Rumi warns that others will simply not understand. Both poets have strong beliefs in their work, but Rumi is broader in the sense that he deals with a wide range of topics from religion to children to nature and seems to be sure of himself and his writings, even when he occasionally directs a thought provoking question to the reader at the end of a stanza.

The device I like best in Rumi’s work, and poetry in general, is the way in which the poet can give life to an inanimate object so that it has human-like qualities. The beautiful image of a reed crying while making a beautiful sound is an image that I will never forget. Rumi is an amazing discovery for me.