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Persian poetry reading today at Arts Center

Persian tea, treats and poetry will be served at 7 p.m. Thursday at “Exploring Islamic Culture,” featuring the poems of Rumi in both Farsi and English.

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“Rumi (is) the great Persian poet of love. Everything is love to him — God, relationships and everything else,” said Phyllis Bratton, director of the Raugust Library at the University of Jamestown.

Likely the most influential medieval Persian poet, Rumi’s works have been put to music and are still sung in many countries throughout the world, Bratton said.

People may have heard of the “whirling Dervishes,” a religious movement known for its meditation style of turning in a circle. Often during the meditation the person spinning recites the Koran or poetry — Rumi’s or other poets’ — to music written for that purpose.

“A lot of that grew out of (Rumi’s) poetry that was put to music,” Bratton said.

The Dervishes are part of Sufi tradition, one of the branches of Islam.

Mort Sarabakhsh, Ph.D., of the University of Jamestown, who also comes from the Sufi tradition, will read poetry from Rumi in both Farsi and in English, and show videos of different elements of Islamic culture that grew out of Rumi’s work, Bratton said.

Sarabakhsh will also make tea in the Persian style, and bring Persian treats for participants to try.

The program is sponsored by the National Endowment for the Humanities and the American Library Association, under its Bridging Cultures initiative.

As a grant, the Raugust Library received 26 books and four films about Muslims in America, which are available to the university community but also to anyone in town who wants to check them out.

One of the books is a text of Rumi’s poetry.

Local sponsors for the event are the Arts Center and the Raugust Library at the University of Jamestown.

“Last year, (the Arts Center was) doing the Caravanserai, so I thought this will tie in with what the Arts Center was doing,” Bratton said.

The event is at the Arts Center, is open to all and free of charge.

“If you’re interested in poetry, if you’re interested in Medieval Islamic culture, if you just want to find out more about Islamic culture in general, it’s a good thing to come to,” Bratton said.

Sun reporter Kari Lucin can be reached at 701-952-8453 or by email at