Majid Ali, M.D.
A Letter from a Reader
What Is Poetry?
March 27, 2015
Having spent the summer before I entered College in Greece, my ancestral home, I was smitten by the Classical culture I encountered there and, therefore, decided that I wanted to be an archaeologist. So, I earned a BA degree in Classical Languages–Greek and Latin. I went on and earned a Masters in Rare Book Librarianship and worked at Yale’s Rare Book and Manuscript Library for a number of years. I was slated to go to Oxford University to get D.Phil degree, but had a very prescient dream a few months before I was about to go. In the dream I saw myself all alone as a skeleton covered and surrounded by cobwebs in a cubbyhole in an ancient library. It was very creepy and a very visceral message to me to not pursue these studies anymore.
Instead I chose to discover once and for all whether God existed or not. So, I traveled far and wide, internally and externally, only to find that God was, in fact, within me–He/She wasn’t out there anywhere–but I did gather many interesting stories and adventures on my journeys. 🙂
Ever since I was a child I was fascinated with the inner deeper meaning of words and am still to this day. Somewhere in my early 20’s I was writing poetry and it dawned on me to find out the etymology of the word poem or poetry. So, I looked in an old version of a Classical Greek Lexicon and found that the root for poem/poetry is ποιεω. And that ποιεω means to make, do, or create. But that seemed a bit superficial to me. So, I dug deeper and found that in the earliest uses of the word ποιεω it means to do, make, bring into existence or create something holy. That really resonated with me. Actually in Hesiod’s Theogony, the oldest extant piece of literature in Western world, the Creator is referred to as ο ποιω ν.
So, I decided at that point that I wanted to be a “poet” and make my life a “poem.” In other words I wanted my life and actions to be ones that create something holy/sacred and I wanted to become someone who experienced the holiness and sacredness of life. So…. I am still working on it–a piece of art in progress is often rough around the edges, still but beautiful within. Regardless, it’s been a very worthwhile journey.
Hope this is helpful.
Blessings and Peace,
John or Yanni. M