“Books and Beads” is back for National Poetry Month! Like the first installment of the series, this one is composed by Natalie Thielen Helper, Beadazzled sales associate and public relations manager. As always, anyone interested in contributing to this or other series should email Natalie a brief pitch at BeadazzledPR (at) gmail (dot) com.
Although he lived and died hundreds of years ago and thousands of miles away, Rumi (ca. 1207-1273) is the best-selling poet in the United States. Born in Iran, he travelled all over the Middle East before dying at age 66 in Konya, Turkey. Over his lifetime he wrote thousands of lyrical poems, most of them about Allah, Muhammad, and his mentor Shams.
It’s not hard to see why his work remains so popular today. His vivid imagery and surprising turns of phrase captivated me from the first time I ever read his work, several years ago. Rumi and his works are among the first things I think of when I read or hear about Persia and the Middle East; he provides a context rich in history, images, and beauty.
So it’s no surprise I thought of Rumi when some beautiful ancient strands from the Middle East arrived at Beadazzled.
According to the informational sheet that came with them, “these ancient glass pieces are more than 2150 years old, which dates their origins back to 350-150 BC.” This makes them hundreds of years older than Rumi. The beads come from a modern-day archeological site; when Rumi was alive they had already been buried for centuries. Perhaps he walked over them, his footsteps compressing the soil and sending them just a little deeper into the earth where they’d be found. Considering the extent of his travels, and the site of the dig, this romantic idea of mine is actually possible:
[The glass pieces] were found in the area of North Central Asia known as the Bactrian Kingdom [“one of the ancient civilizations of Iranian peoples, covering the modern-day flat region that straddles Pakistan, Afghanistan and Tajikistan,” according to Wikipedia].
These glass pieces were once beads, bottles, jars, cups, vases, perfume containers, bangles, and decorative tiles. Over the passing of time they became buried and broke into pieces that began to collect deposits from the minerals of the earth. This caused them to form layers of unique colors and iridescence known as a patina.
I love looking at these beads while imagining the objects they used to be, and the people who used to use them. Both these beads and Rumi’s poems make me see the ordinary as extraordinary, beautiful, and full of meaning.
I know that those “beads, bottles, jars, cups, vases, perfume containers, and bangles” were long buried by the time Rumi began writing his poetry. Still, I enjoy pretending they’re somehow connected to the items he mentions. For instance, I like to imagine that those beads were present in their original state at a wedding he writes about:
At the wedding night of rose and Nasrin
I hang the drum on my neck.
Tonight, the tambourine and small drum
Will become our clothes.
Be silent! Venus becomes the Cupbearer tonight
And offers glasses to our sweetheart,
Whose skin is fair and rosy,
Who takes a glass and drinks.
For the sake of God, because of our praying,
Now Sufis become exuberant
At the assembly of God’s Absence.
They put the belt of zeal on their waists
And start Sama’.
One group of people froth like the sea,
Prostrating like waves.
The other group battles like swords,
Drinking the blood of our glasses.
Be silent! Tonight, the Sultan
Went to the kitchen.
He is cooking with joy.
But a most unusual thing,
Tonight, the Beloved is cooking our Halva.
I love the fact that after being lost for so long, these beautiful objects get to be touched by human hands again, and bring a bit of the extraordinary, the poetic, back into our everyday lives.
Our “Books and Beads” series is written by Natalie Thielen Helper, Beadazzled sales associate and public relations manager. If you would like to contribute to this series, email Natalie a brief pitch at BeadazzledPR (at) gmail (dot) com.