Though little is known of the life of the Indian mystic and poet Kabir, it is believed he was born in or near Benares. He grew up in a family of Muslim weavers before becoming a disciple of the Hindu ascetic Ramananda. Kabir is considered both a Sufi and Brahmin saint.
Kabir’s poetry draws on both Hinduism and Islam, though he was critical of certain aspects of both faiths. Some of his verses are included in the compilation of Sikh scriptures known as the Adi Granth. His mystical poems are grounded in the details and earthly particulars of everyday life. Poet Mary Karr, featuring one of Kabir’s poems in the “Poet’s Choice” column in the Washington Post, noted that “Kabir lists ‘birds and animals and the ant’ in a way that draws the eye from the soaring sky to the earth’s crawly, exoskeletal creatures. In doing so he connects a vague, blank heaven and the tiny, miraculous particulars.”
Kabir’s poems have been collected in One Hundred Poems of Kabir; Translated by Rabindranath Tagore, Assisted by Evelin Underhill (2005) and Kabir: Ecstatic Poems, versions by Robert Bly (2007).