The Library of conference receives hundreds of questions yearly from world seeking assist identifying the complete text and authors the poems they read years—if no decades—ago. Most human being are able to recall little much more than a expression or line from the search poem and the general period of your life when they review it (e.g., elementary institution or high school), and also then hope the our recommendation librarians have the right to successfully apply their sleuthing an abilities to the job of tracking under the complete poem.

You are watching: Unable to perceive the shape of you

I and my colleagues in the Library’s new Researcher and Reference Services division (formerly the Humanities and Social sciences Division) ar the vast bulk of “help recognize a poem” questions that come in through the Library’s ask a Librarian service, and we pride ourselves on having quite a good success rate in identify poems and also their resources for patrons. That said, it’s no always feasible to accurately decide the exact resource of a poem, or to definitively recognize a poem’s author.

Such is the instance with the city at the finish Guillermo del Toro’s 2017 movie—and current winner the the Academy compensation for ideal Picture—The shape of Water.

During the previous month, numerous moviegoers who have seen The form of Water have actually written united state in desperate search of the original resource and writer of this poem. And they are not the just ones in quest of an answer: searching the poem’s message online reveals numerous websites, online forums, and social media services—from Reddit come Twitter—whose individuals are proactively trying to number out the poem’s author.

The poem, as I mentioned, appears at the nearby of The shape of Water, and is introduced by the movie’s narrator, who claims (minor spoiler alert!): “But once I think of her, that Elisa, the only thing that comes to mind is a poem, whispered by someone in love hundreds of years ago.”

The narrator then recites the following poem (which I have actually not lineated):

Unable come perceive the shape of you, I uncover you all roughly me. Your existence fills my eyes with your love. The humbles my heart, for you space everywhere.


Jalal al-Din Rumi. (Spiritual Couplets). Persia, 1441, replicated by Salah al Din Mir Shah. Manuscript. Near east Section, African and also Middle east Division, Library the Congress.

I and my colleague, Kathy Woodrell, that fielded one of the questions the Library received around the poem, searched countless full-text databases, city indexes, and also online resources—many of i beg your pardon are detailed on my online overview to detect poems—for the poem, however couldn’t find any type of exact matches. While many online resources attribute the lines come the 13th century Sufi mystic poet Rumi, none we discovered provide precise citation that could be supplied to verify Rumi’s authorship. Various other online attributions we come across, such as the claim that the poem was written by oriental monk Symeon the new Theologian (942-1022 A.D.) and also appears in an English translation of his Divine Eros, also did no pan out upon review of the cited works.

Failing to find any kind of reputable publish or online sources that recognize the poem’s author, Kathy and also I take it a closer look at what, if anything, billy del Toro has said about the poem. As it transforms out, del Toro insurance claims he came throughout the city in a book of Islamic poetry. This claim shows up in a testimonial of the The form of Water published in the November 23, 2017, problem of north Kentucky University’s student newspaper, The Northerner:

Though he doesn’t remember precisely where the verse come from, del Toro remembers reading it in a publication of Islamic poetry, found in a bookstore he’d frequent before going on collection to film.

Some extr details are provided in a November 2017 gold Derby interview with Richard Jenkins, who plays Giles in the movie. Jenkins recalls what del Toro said him about the poem’s source:

Narration is hard. It’s yes, really hard. I’ll tell friend what, ns didn’t have the last narration until about two weeks prior to I stopped shooting, and Guillermo came up to me and he said, “I discovered this poem in a bookstore today. It’s written by a man thousands of years ago,” which i say in the narration. He claimed it to be his love letter to God and we’re gonna use it. Therefore that’s how that involved be.

In a December 2017 conference contact discussion about The form of Water with numerous colleges, del Toro expose even an ext about the resource of the poem:

Then we were currently shooting the movie and also it was the first week the the shoot, and also I constantly arrive one hour or two prior to the crew to the set and i was a small earlier than that. Climate my driver says, “What perform we do?” as soon as I have actually any complimentary time, i say “Let’s get in a bookshop.” for this reason we went to a bookshop, and also I was searching the shelves. I uncovered this poem in a book about an illuminated poet talking around Allah, talking about God. I assumed it to be so magnificent. It moved me very much, and I purchase the book. We got the credits in the movie—they’re over there at the end, and it ended up being the many beautiful closeup of the door I might have imagined for the movie. Yet I decided already there. That day, we videotaped Richard Jenkins reading it for the editing, and I knew that it was going to it is in perfect for the film.

Aha! Kathy and I thought as soon as we read this. If, together del Toro says, the city or publication is provided in the end credits that The shape of Water, every we need to do is watch the movie and note the poem’s source as it scrolls by in the credits. Dutifully, Kathy and I independently watched the movie, with pen and record at the prepared to jot down the poem’s source. As the end credits rolled, though, we had the very same experience: at very first eagerly awaiting the source’s appearance, only for the eagerness to revolve to despair when the credits finished without any type of mention the the city or book. What happened? one of two people del Toro’s words were not accurately reported, or his statement to be inaccurate.

Throughout our search, Kathy and also I to be keenly conscious that the book in i m sorry del Toro supposedly read the poem would likely have been an English translate into of Islamic poetry. Also if us couldn’t discover the English translation of the poem, us reasoned, perhaps a scholar the Islamic poetry would be able to recognize and also direct united state to the initial version that the poem (in Arabic or Persian, perhaps).

Since the poem’s authorship to be most frequently attributed come Rumi, ns emailed Brad Gooch, author of the current Rumi story Rumi’s Secret: The Life and also Times the the Sufi Poet that Love, to check out if he could have come across these lines during his research. Follow to Dr. Gooch:

Rumi created over three thousand ghazals, and also two thousands robaiyat, which space lyric poems akin to sonnets and also quatrains. Countless have no been translated. Many have to be extraordinarily loosely translated. Often lines space attributed to Rumi the are simply not through Rumi. Those lines undoubtedly do sound prefer Rumi, but they can have been created by a Sufi poet of the moment under the influence of Rumi or that the basic poetic reasoning of the time, or someone later under the influence of one of two people . Bottom line: ns cannot provide you a identify attribution for the lines, nor have the right to I say they are certainly by Rumi (though they might be!).

Fatemeh Keshavarz, manager of the institution of Languages, Literatures, and Cultures in ~ the college of Maryland, college Park, and also Chair and also Director that the University’s Roshan Institute because that Persian Studies, agrees. Responding come my email inquiry, Dr. Keshavarz stated that “the quote does not remind me the any particular verse the Rumi,” though it does mirror key concepts and themes in Islamic lyric poetry and Rumi’s very own work:

The principle that the beloved’s shape is no to be viewed by the lover due to the fact that the lover is omnipresence has become a global love template in Islamic lyric poetry since the ide is expressed in the Qur’an. Due to the fact that Rumi is the best know Muslim mystic, in ~ this point, i am not surprised that it will certainly be attributed come him. Also, I have no doubt that if us sifted with his lyric city corpus, we will certainly find plenty of lines evoking the shapelessness and also the omnipresence of the beloved.

Dr. Keshavarz point out to 2 verses native the Qur’an as oft-quoted instances of these ideas:

“Wherever you revolve is the confront of God” (defined together the lover or the reality by the Sufis).” – Qur’an 2:115

“He is the beginning, the end, the outer and also the inner.” – Qur’an: 57:3)

Given the details Kathy and I have amassed, what conclusions deserve to we offer around the poem’s origin?

The most most likely scenario is that the poem in The shape of Water is an adaptation that a city del Toro review in a book of Islamic city he found at a bookstore. Del Toro might have had actually the book in hand as soon as adapting the poem, or might instead have actually relied on his storage of the poem’s text. The city he adapted was most likely written by an Islamic lyric poet, perhaps in Arabic or Persian. If the poem might have been written by any type of of a variety of Islamic poets operation in the lyric or mystic tradition offered the poem’s typical theme, Rumi has quickly come to be the leading candidate. This may in part be because of Rumi functioning together what quotation professional Garson O’Toole phone call a “Host,” a famous figure such as note Twain or Yogi Berra who generally receives credit for a statement he never ever made, however which sounds like something he could have written or uttered.

Another opportunity is the del Toro is the sole, original author of the poem. In this scenario, he developed the story around discovering the city in a book at a bookstore, possibly as means to include a class of mystery, or mysteriousness, about the poem’s source. This would explain his reticence to provide a detailed resource for the poem, presume he actually purchased the book in which it appears, together he has asserted (“It relocated me an extremely much, and I bought the book”).

Of course, the question about the poem’s authorship might be reply by del Toro. Go he, in fact, acquisition the book of Islamic city in i beg your pardon he says he discovered the poem? If so, that can administer the publication details for the book, and even the page on i m sorry the poem appears. Ns tried informally contacting del Toro through Twitter, however received no response. Probably some the the readers of this write-up are interested sufficient in the secret of the poem’s authorship to contact him through various other means.

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If you uncover any type of further ideas or leads about the poem’s origins, feel totally free to re-publishing below!

Update: several commenters attribute the city to the 11th and also 12th century Sufi mystical poet Hakim Sanai (pseudonym the Abū al-Majd Majdūd ibn Ādam). Sanai, who resided in Ghazna (modern work Ghazni), Afghanistan, is best known because that The fastened Garden that the Truth (Ḥadīqat al-ḥaqīqah), i m sorry is thought about the very first major Persian mystical poem. The attached Garden that Truth was an initial translated into English by J. Stephenson in 1910, and also is easily accessible online with the HathiTrust Digital Library. In particular, a translation of a section by Priya Hemenway on web page 38 the The book of Everything: trip of the Heart’s Desire : Hakim Sanai’s Walled Garden that Truth (2002) is a fairly close match, in both content and style, to the city in The shape of Water. If Hemenway’s translation may indeed have been the city that influenced Guillermo del Toro, because it displayed themes presents in much other Sufi mystical poetry, definitive attribution should come indigenous del Toro himself.

Update 2: Commenter Julie points out that a translate in by Priya Hemenway on web page 41 of The book of Everything (first line: “Unable to discern the form of You, / I view your Your presence all around.”) is actually much closer in wording come the message of the city at the finish of the movie. I agree, and believe the wording is near enough that it’s quite most likely Hemenway’s translation is the one adapted for the movie through del Toro. Thanks, Julie!

Update 3: In solution to numerous readers that commented that a referral to Hakim Sanai appears in the finish credits that the movie, ns reviewed the finish credits again and discovered, close to their finish, the complying with reference: