Submitted by Jan Hebbard on Tue, 06/04/2019

Poet Coleman Barks has spent the past sixty years exploring the possibilities of American ecstatic poetry. His life and work is the subject of a new exhibition, Praying Aloud in Public: The Papers of Coleman Barks, opening in the Rotunda Gallery of the Richard B. Russell Building Special Collections Libraries on Friday, May 24.

Born and raised in Chattanooga, Tennessee, Barks studied English literature at University of California, Berkeley, and The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill before joining the faculty of the University of Georgia in 1967. He taught at UGA until his retirement in 1997.

During his early career his  writing explored experiences of love and parenthood, the death of his parents, and divorce; he is the father of two, and grandfather of five. In 1976 he began translating the work of Jalāl al-Dīn Rūmī, Islam’s most revered poet, into modern American free verse. These translations launched the 13th-century poet to the top of bestseller lists and gave Barks wide notoriety. Over his long career he has published eleven collections of his own poetry, and twenty-two volumes of Rumi translations.

The exhibit displays selected items from the Coleman Barks Papers, opened for research at the Hargrett Library in 2018. “Barks’ archive contains roughly fifty thousand pages of manuscripts. These reams of longhand or typed drafts are complemented and illuminated by forty-five years of dream journals – waking recollections, plus jotted first drafts and introspective notes that afford a revealing look into a creative life,” said exhibit curator Skip Hulett. The collection also contains personal and professional correspondence, photographs, and other memorabilia.

Praying Out Loud in Public: The Papers of Coleman Barks will be on display from May 24 to August 23, 2019 in the Rotunda Gallery of the Special Collections Building. For more information about the exhibit email jhebbard@uga.edu or call (706) 583-0213.

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