New poetry dialogue club packs a punch

Demir teching participants the art of water marbling. (credit: Alexandre Kaspar/) Demir teching participants the art of water marbling. (credit: Alexandre Kaspar/)

“Come, come, whoever you are, come and join us” is the mantra of the Rumi Dialogue Club, a student organization here at Carnegie Mellon that centers itself around a message of love, tolerance, and respect for life. The club bases its values off the works and teachings of 13th-century poet Jalal ad-D n Muhammad Rumi, a devout Muslim and Sufi mystic who believed in the transformative and unifying powers of love. The Rumi Dialogue Club puts these beliefs into action by organizing workshops and seminars that address and resolve cultural differences. They also offer Turkish language classes in a continuing effort to “bridge cultural gaps between Carnegie Mellon students.”

The club recently had an event in the University Center on Jan. 12 where anyone interested in learning more about Rumi and Turkish culture could come and participate. UC Connan, where the event was held, was packed and lively with old and new friends chatting and catching up.

True to their message of acceptance and tolerance, the crowd of attendees was diverse in age and ethnicity, gathered together through the commonality of a thirst for learning and a love of Turkish food. The majority of the event was dedicated to distinguished guest professor Emine Yeniterzi from Turkey’s Rumi Social Research Center and professor Nihat Polat from Duquesne University’s English as a Second Language program.

Yeniterzi spoke at length and in great depth about the inspiring namesake of the club and how the teachings of Rumi are still applicable to living a meaningful life in the modern world. Her speech addressed many aspects of life on which Rumi gave sage advice in the form of poetry, some of which included self-improvement, education and spiritual development, time management, and struggles against adversity.

Lasting hundreds of years, much of his poetry focuses on continual transformation in an effort to become more unified with God and people. According to a famous poem written by Rumi, “Discard the old if you desire newness” (Mathnawi II: 1270). The poem typifies the college experience where, especially at Carnegie Mellon, transformation and modernization play key roles.

As Yeniterzi pointed out throughout her speech, Rumi was not really a poet, but an educator who used the medium of poetry to convey his ideas. He stressed the importance of critical thinking as a way of life, saying, “Reason is what enables one to have vision to follow on the path of transformation and self-improvement” (Mathnawi I: 2582). For those who value education, espeically students, these words are indeed potent and pertinent. To use Yeniterzi’s analogy, “If the world is a body, knowledge is what gives it life.”

Yeniterzi’s speech was followed by a hauntingly beautiful nay, or reed flute, performancwe by Serkan Imisiker, a proficient musician of the flute, after which Polat gave a speech titled “Why Learn Turkish?” Polat’s talk was a lighthearted yet sincere argument for learning Turkish as a way to get an edge on the current job market and as an expansion of one’s own worldview.

After Polat’s speech the meeting ended with an ebru, or water marbling, performance given by Muyesser Demir, an artist proficient in the practice. Some of Demir’s work, as well as the club’s mission statement and upcoming events, can be seen online at the Rumi Dialogue Club’s Facebook page,