Dervish Essays Explore Fly Fishing, Nature

The writings of Rumi, the 13th century Sufi mystic, provides inspiration for faculty author Robert Vivian.

Book cover Robert Vivian’s second book of dervish essays, titled Immortal Soft-Spoken, explores such themes as fly fishing, nature and the beauty of the world.

Dervish essays are a type of prose poetry.

“I’ve had the great fortune of teaching in Turkey several times,” says Vivian, professor of English at Alma College. “The first of these was for six months during a sabbatical when a dear Turkish friend of mine mentored me in the poetry of Rumi — the founder of sophism and the whirling dervishes. I had never been exposed to anything like that before and was blown away.

“When I got back to America, I found myself writing these strange forms that weren’t quite poems and weren’t quite essays,” says Vivian. “So, I call them dervish essays because of the way that they whirl and put me into a kind of ecstatic state.”

When he isn’t reading, writing or teaching, Vivian is up in the northern woods of Michigan wading in rivers and fly fishing — which provide the themes of much of his writing.

“These themes are all things that I deeply love and which inspire me,” says Vivian. “Some of my greatest inspirations are Rumi, another great Persian poet and ecstatic Hafez, and my own relationship with the natural world up north, which always rejuvenates me.”

Bob Vivian, fourth from left, with ?Fishing in Literature? students and guests along the Ausable ... Bob Vivian, fourth from left, with “Fishing in Literature” students and guests along the Ausable River.
Vivian often sets aside the first hour or two of his day for writing.

“I believe that everyone is creative, and it isn’t a privileged few,” he says. “Every single human being is creative, but people have to believe and honor that or that creativity will atrophy and die. For me, it requires that I spend an hour and a half writing early each morning.”

Vivian’s first collection of dervish essays, titled Mystery My Country, was published in 2016. Prior to that he had published two books of meditative essays called Cold Snap as Yearning and The Least Cricket of Evening, as well as The Tall Grass Trilogy and Water and Abandon.

A third collection of dervish essays, titled The Most Woke, is currently under consideration for publication.

Story published on May 18, 2018