Ancient poet’s work brought back to life

By Devon Ziminski
Correspondent

In the warm glow of the tranquil auditorium, with a backdrop of Persian tapestries setting the scene, the words of Rumi were elegantly recited and accompanied by authentic music on Monday night at the “Voice of Rumi in Poetry and Music” presentation in the Library Auditorium.

Introduced by Jo-Ann Gross, professor of Middle Eastern and Central Eurasian history, Peter Rogan, presenter of Rumi’s famous love poetry, spoke with grace as he recited Rumi’s words, pausing to add in his own reflections on the selected pieces. Rumi, the renowned 13th century Sufi poet and mystic and literary genius, has inspired people for centuries as the “revealer of Love’s secrets.”

Rumi was “a devoted Muslim and mystic, a lawyer who wrote mystical love poetry, a philosopher who danced,” Rogan said.

Each of Rumi’s poems has a secret, a secret that can be uncovered by listening to his poems.

Between poetry readings, Amir Vahab, an international artist, performed various authentic Persian and Turkish songs, singing Rumi’s poems in their original language.

Performers playing the “drums of Rumi,” 4,000-year-old ancient drums called “dafs,” accompanied Vahab. Hearing the poems in a mild song form in Persian gave the audience a “taste of what it sounded like when Rumi uttered it,” Rogan said.

Rogan challenged those with a sense of adventure to fast for 30 days, not from food, but from complaining. This endeavor requires a lot of knowledge, love and discipline. Rogan illuminated Rumi’s idea that in life there are openings and closings: We need both to thrive as individuals.

The deep thoughts of Rumi continued throughout the readings.

“The cure is in the pain,” he said.

Rogan offered the recent Trayvon Martin case as an example of how we can use Rumi’s ideals in our modern lives. If the goal is to alter gun laws, Rogan explained we cannot expect one letter to Congress to change the law. We may have to write 30 letters and continually badger Congress for change to occur. Rumi teaches us that it takes energy to adhere to your passions. The provocative words of Rumi, in combination with the rhythmic, buoyant music of Vahab, created a serene atmosphere for the audience to reflect on the prose.

Peter Rogan toured with the Whirling Dervishes Sufism group from Turkey and has performed at the National Cathedral in Washington D.C., the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the University of Massachusetts, Amherst College, Boston, Duke, & Yale University. Amir Vahab is a skilled musician, playing the nay (flute), tanbor (lute), daf (drum) and saz (lute). Amir has performed at major arenas in the United States, Europe and Australia.

This program was SAF funded and was sponsored by the Cultural and Intellectual Program Council, the School of Humanities and Social Sciences, the Center for Global Engagement and the Eurasia/Middle East Society. The “Voice of Rumi in Poetry and Music” presentation is part of the Cultural and Intellectual Program Council’s 2013 theme “constructing the past.”