Thursday, March 22, 2018

A Review of "Hallaj: Poems of a Sufi Martyr" by Husayn ibn Mansur Hallaj; translated from the Arabic by Carl W. Ernst



I really liked the cover art, too. 



I feel like I have to start this by saying I am not at all qualified to talk about Sufi poetry. The only thing I can tell you about it is that I enjoy reading it.

Like many people here, most of my exposure to it was Rumi. Even at the university level. I feel like that's ridiculous.

Not that Rumi isn't spectacular, it's just that it's like eating one piece of delicious cake and declaring that it is the only flavor cake you ever need to eat again. Nobody does that. I don't think we should do it with this kind of poetry. 

Hallaj was a fascinating person and I can't believe I hadn't heard of him before. He was a martyr and had some radical ways, like bringing Sufi teachings out to the public, that were interesting. 

If you did like Rumi, I feel like you will enjoy Hallaj's poetry. They don't read the same, like one I feel was this introspective riddle and the other like watching fire dance around, but the themes in many cases were similar. 

I liked the book. I really did. 

But, having said this, the long introduction and explanations for every poem make this not a poetry-lovers book, but a historian's one. 

It's probably needed, many of us don't have a lot of experience with Sufi poems, but more often than not, I found myself skimming the explanations and only going back to them if I found a line that I couldn't relate to or seemed out of place. 

This would make an excellent textbook for that reason, but if that scholarly presence is something that bothers you, keep that in mind before grabbing this title. I still recommend it overall, though. 


Digital work inspired by reading the poetry book. I think I should do this with poetry
 regularly, these are fun and cathartic. 
"Don't mince words with us, for here is a finger that we have dyed with the blood of lovers."

-(42. "Dyed in Blood", "Hallaj: Poems of a Sufi Martyr" by Husayn ibn Mansur Hallaj; translated from the Arabic by Carl W. Ernst)


*credit to the photographer for the background image of the illustration* unsplash-logoChris Rhoads


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