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May, 10th, 2018, 7pm
3 Howard Street, NY NY 10013

IAIA invites you join us for a talk and reading with Brad Gooch, author of Rumi's Secret: The Life of the Sufi Poet of Love in conversation with Salar Abdoh. 


“Gooch’s biography brings the political and intellectual tumult of the early medieval era to life, producing vivid characters and memorable portraits of urban experience…a sensitive and passionate introduction.”


“Extraordinary… Brad Gooch’s fine, searching biography, “Rumi’s Secret,” will fascinate his subject’s many admirers. We will never fully know Rumi, but thanks to Mr. Gooch, we know him better.”


RUMI’S SECRET: The Life of the Sufi Poet of Love by eminent literary biographer Brad Gooch, offers a masterful portrait of the little-known man who left behind some of the most enduring writing in world civilization—poetry that is still among the bestselling around the globe. This lyrically crafted, deeply researched work is the first popular biography of the 13th-century poet revered for spiritual wisdom akin to St. Francis and an outpouring of creativity that rivals Shakespeare. “To his magnificent lives of Frank O'Hara and Flannery O'Connor, Brad Gooch now adds that of the 13th-century Sufi poet Rumi,” says Fernanda Eberstadt, author of The Furies and Little Money Street. “Deftly situating Rumi in the crosscurrents of Persian, Arab, Turkic, and Mongol history, Gooch gives us an indelible portrait of this mystic so crucial to Christians, Muslims, Jews, and modern-day searchers after meaning.”


Gooch, a National Book Critics Circle Award finalist and New York Times bestselling biographer, immersed himself fully in the writings of Rumi for this seminal life study, learning the Persian language in order to read the works in the original and providing all of his own translations throughout the book. He also traveled the poet’s own life path, journeying to Iran, Turkey, Syria, Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, and Turkmenistan to replicate the over 2500 miles Rumi himself travelled during his lifetime, and visited all of the major centers of Muslim culture where Rumi lived and worked.


Rumi was born in what is present-day Tajikistan, the son of Baha Valad, a scholar and cleric. When he was a boy, his family embarked on a ten-year journey across much of the Muslim world, spending time in Baghdad, Samarkand, Mecca, and other centers of Islamic civilization. The family ultimately settled in Konya, Turkey, where the future poet would live most of his adult life. Rumi was following in his father’s scholarly footsteps when he met the nomadic and charismatic Shams of Tabriz who turned his life around by encouraging him to follow a path of love rather than a path of knowledge. Shams taught Rumi to whirl and transformed him from a respectable Muslim preacher to a poet and mystic. Theirs would become the pivotal relationship of Rumi’s life, refusing to conform to a neat teacher-student model, and central to much of the poet’s greatest poems.


Rumi was born into a religious Muslim family and followed the proscribed rules of daily prayed and fasting throughout his life, and yet he made claims for a “religion of love” that went beyond all organized faiths. With a penetrating exploration of Rumi’s work interwoven through this chronicle of his life, Gooch explores why this poet of love, whose writings could be interpreted as heretical, has been spared by fundamentalists. Gooch also delves into the ways in which Rumi’s work operated from an aesthetic of secrets and connects not only with traditional Persian love poetry, but with mystical poetry in the Western tradition as well.


“Rumi communicated urgency and intimacy, love and humor, as well as a need to be heard, even while circling secrets,” Gooch comes to find.


“While reticent in sharing all the intimate details of his everyday life, Rumi remained open, loving, vulnerable, candid, and even confessional. His greatest achievement—to articulate the sound of one soul speaking: Don’t speak so you can hear those voices/Not yet turned into words or sound.”


RUMI’S SECRET is an elegantly written, penetrating look at one of the most revered poets of all time, and his lasting impact in the twenty-first century.


Brad Gooch is the author of Smash Cut: A Memoir of Howard & Art & the 70s and the 80s and Flannery: A Life of Flannery O’Connor, which was a National Book Critics Circle Award Finalist, a New York Times Notable Book of the Year, and a New York Times bestseller. His previous books include City Poet: The Life and Times of Frank O’Hara; as well as Godtalk: Travels in Spiritual America; three novels--Scary Kisses, The Golden Age of Promiscuity, Zombie00; a collection of stories, Jailbait and other Stories, chosen by Donald Barthelme for a Writer’s Choice Award; a collection of poems, The Daily News; and two memoirs, Finding the Boyfriend Within and Dating the Greek Gods. His work has been featured in numerous magazines including: The New Republic, The New Yorker, Vanity Fair, New York Magazine, Travel and Leisure, Partisan Review, The Paris Review, The Los Angeles Times Book Review, Art Forum, Harper’s Bazaar, The Nation, and regularly on The Daily Beast. A Guggenheim fellow in Biography, he has received a National Endowment for the Humanities fellowship, and a Furthermore grant in publishing from the J.M. Kaplan Fund. A professor of English at William Paterson University, he earned his PhD at Columbia University, and lives in New York City.

Salar Abdoh is an Iranian American novelist and essayist. He is the author of the novels The Poet Game (2000), Opium (2004), Tehran At Twilight (2014), and the editor and translator of the anthology Tehran Noir (2014). He is also a director of the graduate program in Creative Writing at the City College of New York at the City University of New York.

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