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Interfaith Voices: Corvallis, poetry and cross-cultural interaction

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Corvallis is a small city, but it is a melting pot of diverse cultures from around the globe. Over the years and through my modest contributions to some cultural events here and there, I noticed several cultural backgrounds which form the beautiful patterns of the social fabric of our community. Cross-cultural poetry readings, as one form of activity among many, could bring people together and lead to constructive interaction. The Interfaith Voices column can play a role in easy hunting for creative potentials within Corvallis.

Diverse voices create a healthy environment of interaction among the writers themselves and the writers and the people surrounding them. This kind of interaction is an effective tool for lifting the spirits of both author and audience.

Poetry has significant power to reach people regardless of faith or cultural background. Interaction with a poem stems from the feeling that the poem shares your feelings. Thus when you are listening to it, you feel as if you are listening to yourself.

Cross-cultural poetry readings should allow for poetry written in languages other than English. As a writer whose native language is Arabic, I had my audience react positively to the intentional sudden change from reading my poetry in English to what I wrote in Arabic. I did this in several places such as Corvallis-Benton County Public Library, The Arts Center, Cloud & Kelly's Public House, and Western Oregon University. The audience liked the structural style and phonetics of Arabic poetry and the way it is recited although they may not understand the content. The reason is that the traditional form of Arabic poetry is rhymed poetry restricted by 16 variant meters. A poem can use only one meter throughout and the poet cannot move from one meter to another in a single poem.

We as a community need poets who speak to everyone and who signify the high values shared by all. We need poets who touch the hearts of all, transcending all the differences that exist among people. I say this for we are verily one as the "Qur'an" has clearly stated:

"O mankind, indeed, We have created you from male and female and made you peoples and tribes that you may know one another. Indeed, the most noble of you in the sight of Allah is the most righteous of you. Indeed, Allah is Knowing and Acquainted."

I am concluding this article with one of my poems entitled "Restless Eddies," hoping it resonates with all.

Restless Eddies

Restless eddies of thoughts

are flowing in harmony,

forming beautiful patterns

of turbulence confined

to my resistant life channel,

making me a unique creature

that can do things

rarely thought to be done,

making me see something

no one can see,

making me billions of miles up

while I remain grounded.

These eddies when deep-rooted

inside a peaceful mind,

they, although violent,

live in a quiet swirling peace

making a huge impact

towards the well-being

and betterment of ourselves.

The patterns formed by these eddies,

tell the whole story about the difference

between good and bad,

light and darkness,

beauty and ugliness,

all the positives and negatives

of the world,

yet bear in mind all these opposites

are just the eigenvalue

of your beautiful existence.

Dr. A. Y. Lafi is a published poet, educator, physicist, and engineer who has worked for Oregon State University, General Electric, Shaw Power Group, Chicago Bridge & Iron, and Westinghouse. His academic/technical and literary writings have appeared in a variety of publications nationally and internationally.


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