Tapestry@25: Rumi: Poet Laureate of the Planet Earth

Originally broadcast in September 2007, this is one of the most requested episodes we’ve ever produced. Poet Coleman Barks and the ‘modern-day mystic’ Andrew Harvey explore all the ways Rumi, a 13th-century Persian poet, speaks to 21st-century hearts and minds.

Surrender. Giving yourself up wholly, willingly - body and soul. 

It's a challenging thought in a world where so many people struggle to be in control … in control of themselves and of their surroundings. 

So it's striking when a Tapestry guest suggests the poet Rumi is loved precisely for "the grandeur of his surrender."  The guest was the poet Coleman Barks - and the episode, which originally aired in September 2007, is one of the most popular (and most requested) in the show's history.

Coleman Barks and the "modern-day mystic" Andrew Harvey explored all the ways a 13th-century Persian poet speaks to 21st-century hearts and minds. Harvey marvels at Rumi's "almost frightening intimacy of address," while Barks dubs him "the poet laureate of the planet." 

Coleman Barks (The University of Georgia College of Education/ YouTube)

Barks is a poet who taught English at the University of Georgia for 30 years. The University of Tehran once awarded Barks an honorary doctorate for his translations of Rumi's work. The scholar Huston Smith once said, 'his ear for the truly divine madness in Rumi's poetry is truly remarkable.' 

Andrew Harvey (Andrew Harvey/ Facebook)

Divine madness is a subject close to Andrew Harvey's heart; the teacher and best-selling author has been called a modern day mystic, whose work somehow combines rigour and scholarship, passion and play. Harvey has studied Rumi's work for more than three decades. He has taught at Oxford University, Cornell University, Hobart and William Smith Colleges … among others.  Harvey has written more than 30 books; he was the subject of a BBC film documentary called The Making of A Modern Mystic. 

Tapestry@25 is a continuing series marking the programme's 25th anniversary this season. Team Tapestry has been delving into the archives, trying to figure out which episodes seemed to hit home with the most listeners over the years.

 It was clear from the day we launched the project that the Rumi episode would have to be on the list. 

Part of its appeal is in the subject matter - you'll find Rumi quotes everywhere from coffee mugs to tattoos … one of them adorning Brad Pitt's arm, apparently. 

But a huge part of the reason why this is one of the all-time most requested episodes in Tapestry's history is the guests: Barks and Harvey. They are two of the world's foremost Rumi scholars, and their delight in the poet - in the ecstatic and the erotic charge in his work - is evident (and contagious) all through the interview. 

And for the record, Tapestry isn't the only one celebrating a birthday: this episode was recorded in 2007, to mark Rumi's 800th.