This Time magazine article was taken from here.
What does it take to become a successful poet today? Basically, a miracle. Books of poetry, after all, rarely sell. A few thousand copies are considered more than respectable by most publishers. A few hundred thousand? Only the rarest and luckiest of American poets have seen such numbers. Just ask the best-selling poet in the U.S. today. Then again, don't bother. A Muslim mystic born in Central Asia almost eight centuries ago, he is no longer available for comment.
Jalaluddin Rumi was, among many other things, a lover of irony, of the odd and absurd juxtapositions that life creates. So it may be that he would have savored the fact that Madonna set translations of his 13th century verses praising Allah to music on Deepak Chopra's 1998 CD, A Gift of Love; that Donna Karan has used recitations of his poetry as a background to her fashion shows; that Oliver Stone wants to make a film of his life; and that even though he hailed from Balkh, a town near Mazar-i-Sharif situated in what is today Afghanistan, his verse has only become more popular with American readers since September last year, when HarperCollins published The Soul of Rumi, 400 pages of poetry translated by Coleman Barks. September 2001 would seem like an unpropitious time for an American publisher to have brought out a large, pricey hardback of Muslim mystical verse, but the book took off immediately. It has a long road ahead, however, if it is to catch up with a previous Rumi best seller, The Essential Rumi, published by HarperCollins in 1995. With more than 250,000 copies in print, it is easily the most successful poetry book published in the West in the past decade.