Inspired by Rumi

September 30th, 2009

a crowd of sorrows, mixed media on panel, 12"x12"

I'm often inspired to create a painting when I read a poem, sometimes an image so powerfully hits me when I read a line that I just have to make it real. That happened this week with a poem by Rumi called "The Guest House."

I've read this poem many times before. I think I've even posted it here in the past, but sometimes a new reading will bring out new things. This time around, I read the poem in Martha Beck's The Joy Diet (which I'm reading with Jamie Ridler's book group.) I was sitting outside by a lake, reading the chapter on truth, when I read the poem again and I was struck by the line "a crowd of sorrows" which I immediately saw as a group of three black birds swirling in a red house.

As I wrote about yesterday, I rode the inspiration train to do some late night collaging one evening and then some late night painting after that. I felt so compelled to bring this piece to life and loved the whole process. So nice when things flow like that. The collage elements you see in the previous post are mostly covered up. I never know exactly what's going to stick around when I do a mixed-media piece, but you can see bits of it in the ground and up close the layers are lovely.

Have you been inspired by any poems lately? Have a grouping of words ever pulled you to create something tangible?

Here's the Rumi poem for your enjoyment. It's a beautiful poem that has touched me in many ways. Perhaps it will spark some creativity for you as well.

The Guest House

This being human is a guest house.
Every morning a new arrival.

A joy, a depression, a meanness,
some momentary awareness comes
as an unexpected visitor.

Welcome and entertain them all!
Even if they are a crowd of sorrows,
who violently sweep your house
empty of its furniture,
still, treat each guest honorably.
He may be clearing you out
for some new delight.

The dark thought, the shame, the malice.
meet them at the door laughing and invite them in.

Be grateful for whatever comes.
because each has been sent
as a guide from beyond.

-- Jelaluddin Rumi,
translation by Coleman Barks


p.s. The original of this piece sold, but there are prints available here.

15 Responses

Love the painting and the poem. Thank you for sharing them. I’m pretty new to your blog. I feel the need to read a lot of it now. ;)

Gorgeous painting Leah! I can FEEL the depths of how this poem literally moved you to give it expression through imagery, shape and color! BEAUTIFUL!

[...] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Leah Piken Kolidas and Susan Hemann. Susan Hemann said: RT @leah_art: Hmm, should I name this latest painting "A Crowd of Sorrows" or "The Guest House"? Feeling torn. [...]

love, love, love this piece!

What a soulful, tangible incarnation of the poem.

Did you know that The Daily Om is offering A Year of Rumi – where they will send you a poem a day for the next year?

This is such a beautiful piece of work! Thank you so much for sharing your creative process. I haven’t read poetry in years. Maybe it is time to start again.

Such a beautiful beautiful work of art!

Wow. This is just incredible! I love Rumi, and your interpretation is so poignant! I have a sudden desire to read poetry all day…

This painting is gorgeous. I can feel it in my belly. It really registered with me emotionally, like you’ve captured the feeling of it so clearly that I felt it the second I looked at it.

Powerful. Awesome. Gorgeous.

As for poems, I’ve been reading a lot of Hafiz lately. One of my favorites is The Thousand-Stringed Instrument. My favorite part is:

The heart is
The thousand-stringed instrument.

Our sadness and fear come from being
Out of tune with love.

I love this. Lots.

Thanks for sharing this beautiful painting. It’s amazing.

This is so beautiful and I love Rumi. I’ve always had a strong connection between my poetry and my art. It’s funny because my post today is about a cinquain.


The painting is so wonderful. Thank you so much for sharing it here. I’ll return to it and the poem often. They remind me of something an old friend said when I was going through a particularly tough time. He looked at me, hands clasped together, head bowed and said “Greet each guest at the door. Welcome everything.”


I think we can easily make our unwanted guests feel too comfortable, so much so that they take over the house. Rumi’s poem is wonderful. Thanks for sharing it. How cool to see how the collage in the previous post became the background for your painting. I love seeing the layers.

[...] own art for 2010. And it’s amazing. I originally fell in bloggy love with Leah when she did this post of a painting inspired by a Rumi poem. And what joy I felt when I found that the painting was in the [...]

Love this

[...] Image by CED-Leah   [...]

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