Fairy Chimneys rock formation, nearby Gorëme, in Cappadocia, central Turkey (wikimedia.org)

Coleman Barks & Cappadocia

It's out of this world— not sculpted
by aliens but spewed out from the earth
30 million years ago— volcanic ash
compressed into rock carved by wind & rain

into Fairy Chimneys of Cappadocia—
these capped-cone rocks 130 feet high
look like arrays of Platonic Lambda Λ
that Plato called "Soul of the Universe".

Aside from Plotinus, none wrote about
the soul better than the mystic Rumi,
best-selling poet in America thanks
to the translations of Coleman Barks.

In his Stanford talk on Rumi's poetry,
Barks said he was a geography whiz
in his Chattanooga, Tennessee school,
memorizing all the capitals in the Atlas.

In the dining hall, classmates could shout out
"Bulgaria", he would reply "Sofia", "Finland"—
"Helsinki", "Mongolia"— "Ulan Bator".
Perfect answer every time— none stumped him.

His Latin teacher found an old basement map
and yelled out across the quad— "Cappadocia!"
"He said the look on my face named me"—
from then on, they all nicknamed him "Capp".

Forty years later, Barks learned the capital
of Cappadocia was Ikonium or Konya
Turkey, where Rumi lived and is buried—
whose poetry would become his life's work.

Barks said "I was named after something
I didn't know!" Now these Fairy Chimneys—
"rocks rising to a point" (or Chattanooga),
sing to me of Rumi & mysteries of the soul.

  — Peter Y. Chou
      Mountain View, 2-16-2016

Coleman Barks
Stanford Talk (5-13-2009)

Unseen Rain (1986)

Open Secret (1984)