Barks changed his life's direction when, in 1976, Robert Bly showed him
some scholarly translations of the ecstatic poems of Jelaluddin Rumi, a
thirteenth-century Sufi mystic, and told him, "These poems need to be
released from their cages."
Captivated by Rumi's humor, wisdom, and spiritual depth, and the apparently effortless qualities of a poet as famous in the Islamic world as Shakespeare is in the West, Barks took up the challenge.
Coleman Barks was born and raised in Chattanooga, Tennessee, and was educated at the University of North Carolina and the University of California at Berkeley. He taught poetry and creative writing at the University of Georgia for thirty years.