Words are so powerful. They can make your day and they are capable of causing deep hurt. Words can inspire and unite and they can equally divide and sow hate. I find it incredible that when you leave home to settle into a different country, whether or not you speak the same words can instantly make you feel either comfortable or like an absolute outsider. I have been enraptured by the written word for all of my life and have experienced the immense strength of it, and it still amazes me that sometimes a line or a phrase is all it takes.
This coming Sunday is World Poetry Day. Poetry is another form of expression of the written word that I find so beautiful, melancholic and mystical. I was just thinking this morning how the words that endear to me change with my own evolution. I distinctly remember a time when anything that was said or written by Steve Jobs became the truest truth for me. There was especially one line, a famous quote of his - “I want to put a ding in the universe.” That quote became my motto for a long time. It’s simple, it’s powerful and said by someone who I have great respect for.
And then one day, I discovered Rumi. Jalāl ad-Dīn Mohammad Rūmī, better known as simply Rumi, is the most incredible 13th century Persian poet who wrote more than 5,000 pieces of poetry, ballads and couplets in his lifetime. I am not sure if he ever stopped to think or wonder if people would still be reading his poetry more than 1000 years later, but here we are, still drawing a sense of deep meaning from his written words. After I read Rumi’s work, my favourite quote shifted. His words “Seek the path that demands your whole being” had an even more powerful impact on me. It has remained one of my favourite lines ever written since I first discovered it over 10 years ago and I wholeheartedly try to live my life by that one inspirational phrase.
I’ve recently been watching a beautiful BBC travel documentary presented by Joanna Lumley - The Silk Road Adventure. (I highly recommend it if you haven’t seen it yet!). She begins her journey in Venice, Italy and travels through the ancient Silk Road, ending up in Kyrgyzstan. In Episode 3, she travels through Persia, which is now modern day Iran. Even in the Iran of today, there is a spot where people gather to celebrate the life work of the poet, Hafez. Common folks like you and me can gather at his shrine built in the 14th century and savour his poetry. Many end up finding answers to some existential questions, and many others are able to find solace in his words for their myriad of troubles. Of course it helps that, by and large, Hafez was a positive and optimistic poet! Here is one of the most famous short poems from Hafez.
I wish I could show you
When you are lonely or in darkness,
The Astonishing Light
Of your own Being!
While I also occasionally enjoy the beautiful long wordy poems of Milton, Tennyson, Keats and Yeats, I am drawn to poems of brevity. It’s a true challenge to express an idea in the least amount of words possible. So, it is not entirely surprising that I am also dearly drawn to Haikus. 5-7-5 syllables, and you sometimes find the universe in those verses. Like in this one by one of the four Haiku Masters - Kobayashi Issa:
A world of dew,
And within every dew drop
A world of struggle.
Poetry is sublime writing. While some unfortunately feel that it is beyond their reach, I would urge everyone to just read a few lines of poetry and let yourself be drawn by its power. Some poetry sounds prophetic, but unlike prophecies, they only seek to express an idea for its own sake. You can simply take it, make meaning of it as you like and completely lose yourself in those words. Poetry is an avenue to express you inner voice; you way of life; your thinking and emotions; and sometimes your vision for an inspired future.
Poetry is beauty in words and I hope you will explore some of it. If you know not where to get started, I would like to invite you to our event at The Moon, on Sunday, 21st March 2PM to 4:30 PM on the occasion of World Poetry Day. We have a beautiful afternoon planned with two great writers. Zara Houshmand, who has recently published Moon and Sun, a translation of Rumi’s poetry and Nandini Sen Mehra, a poet who has recently published her collection of poetry titled Whorls Within - will both be joining us to read some of their work, to share some of their favourite poets and to spread their love of this form with all of us. I hope to see you there!