Protest Poem/Rumi Was Muslim – Poetry News Roundup June 17th

Today on My Poetic Side we take a look at the poem that Jackie Kay feels really speaks about the times we are living in. We also take a look at the Rumi was Muslim campaign which is seeking to redress some inaccuracies about the poet they feel exist.

A Poem for These Times of Protest Picked by Jackie Kay

Mandatory Credit: Photo by Kenny Brown/Shutterstock (10671915s)
Protestors held placards of support for the Black Lives Matter protest.
Black Lives Matter protest, Manchester, UK – 06 Jun 2020

Jackie Kay, the Scottish Makar, or National Poet, has picked a poem that she feels is particularly apt for the times that we currently find ourselves in.

The poem in question is The Black Unicorn and it was written by Audre Lorde the African American poet. The poem is the title poem in a book by the same name that was written in 1981.

When she first encountered the poem she was just 19 and living in London. She was working as a hospital porter for the summer and Brixton was burning. The poem and others by Lorde have resonated with her ever since and she believes that the poet has now come to a point where it is her time.

Lorde’s poems speak to the reader and she is not afraid of speaking out when the occasion warrants it. She was outraged by the death of Emmett Till, a young boy who was lynched in Mississippi in 1955. She would have been furious over the death of George Floyd and the violence that has followed. However, the protesting and the voices that have joined in would have made her happy.

The Rumi Was Muslim Campaign

In recent years, the poet Rumi has become something of a household name all over the world and his poetry has become almost instantly recognisable. In 2014, he was even named the best-selling poet in the US.

Works by Rumi, who was a 13th-century mystic and poet are frequently quoted by public figures, and mostly correctly attributed to the poet, and the singer Beyonce even name one of her children Rumi, causing an increase in interest in the poet and his work.

The Rumi was Muslim campaign was set up to look at many of the inaccuracies that exist in translations of the poets work and also the increasing amount of times that his work is wrongfully attributed to someone else. The problem is often that in translating his poetry from Persian they lose something of the man that he was. The cultural references to Muslim life and the poet’s Islamic faith have been eroded over time.

The campaign, which is co-founded by a graduate from Detroit, is hoping to return the correct translation to at least some of the poet’s works in order to portray them correctly.

The campaign was launched first on Instagram and then through a website. The group want to produce their own translation of the poet’s works, a hard task as translating from Persian is a highly technical accomplishment and of course increasing public awareness around the inaccurate quotes attributed to the poet that are all over the internet.

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