It isn’t everyday that one gets to meet a prodigy. However, I was one of the lucky ones, having had the serendipitous opportunity of chancing upon Rayan Abdul-Baki, a 15-year-old Lebanese genius living amongst us in K-city. If you haven’t heard of him yet, remember his name because this fellow is definitely going places! He published his first collection of poetry titled Words From the Sky at the mere age of 13; and he is currently working on his second anthology of poems, An Untitled Pen, which will be released in the near future. If that weren’t enough, he is also in the process of establishing a neuro-scientific hypothesis to cure Alzheimer’s disease. I had the blessed chance to meet Rayan and delve deeper into his psyche.
What does it feel like to be one of the youngest published poets out there?
It feels absolutely amazing to be able to begin changing my life now. There was always a quote I loved from a book by Percy Jackson: “The Sea does not like to be restrained.” Obedience never came naturally to me and I always wanted to transmit my ideas, debate and defend science when pseudoscience tried to take over. In terms of poetry, I want to express what I couldn’t express vocally while trying to battle for success. One of my poems, ‘Cinderelle’, perfectly explains this question, on how someone young and inexperienced could begin a mission and contribute to the world.
Your poetry is way beyond your years and it begs the question: when did you realize that poetry was etched in your veins?
When I realized it was my medium to try and shed any problems in my life. It was a fake me that I enjoyed very much. However, with An Untitled Pen, the poetry became the real me. There wasn’t a time where it all started. I had it in me. I always had a problem at school for being too wordy or disjointed with my writing – and I realized poetry was the only free medium. During my years of studying English at school, it was poetry that generated the most interest for me.
Words from the Sky is a highly spiritual book. In your new book, however, the persona seems to be engulfed in darkness. What led to this transformation?
Words from the Sky was written when I was 13 and I was quite naïve; it is no longer me. An Untitled Pen began when I was 15-years-old and is more philosophical, where I create a parallel universe with words. The darkness is only the icing on the cake; a sensitive eye is required to piece the puzzle from my work. The poems in the new book are mostly untitled, and I leave it for the reader to title his/her own story that s/he pieces from my work. A reader does not have to accept the title. The poetry is universal and the title of the book in itself means that it is a pen that does not belong to anyone. It isn’t mine. I might be the author but you are the storyteller. I aim for my poems to be a combination of both prose and poetry – in a poetic form – and this form is sometimes used in my new book.
Also with my passion for mathematics, biotechnology, neuroscience, computer science and physics, and the work in my hypothesis, I became a humanist and aspiring scientist. I look at everything from a scientific point of view. My debates are controversial according to my family! I hope in the near future that the world will become more open-minded and understand something before classifying it as controversial.
Poetry is obviously an integral aspect of your being, but you are interested in science as well. Can you tell us a bit about your science project for the Google Science Fair?
In 2005, grid cells in the entorhinal cortex were discovered by Dr. May Britt Moser and Dr. Edvard Moser. For this, they won the 2014 Nobel Prize in Physiology and Medicine. Grid cells are responsible for dynamically computing the position of the self, which helps organisms understand their place in space. Recently, it was concluded that the entorhinal cortex is the first part of the brain that is attacked by Alzheimer’s disease. I am hoping to combine my love for biochemistry and nano-technology by merging a quantum dot with an appropriate molecule that would target proteins in grid cells in the medial entorhinal cortex. My goal is to target the proteins or the grid cells in a non-invasive manner in order to increase their potential for action and to prevent the toxic proteins or protein fragments from killing the neuron immediately. The QD-molecule would need to cross the blood brain barrier as well so we can consider this project as therapeutic.
Currently, I am discussing all this with a chemistry professor, as the methodology and engineering of the molecule are still in the planning stages. I can’t wait to tell my teachers about it. The experiment should be starting very soon. For many years I have been hoping to take part in science research, but opportunities and assistance were limited. Now, this project might just grant me the wish I have always wanted: to change the world. I would no longer just be a journalist writing essays about existing projects or someone spitting out ideas. Nonetheless, all the phases I have gone through have helped me to reach this stage.
You mentioned establishing an intelligence society here in Kuwait. How are you going to go about turning this pipe dream into a reality?
I would call it the Kuwait Intelligent Society: a society that can change Kuwait with its greatest weapon – the brain. The society would not be based on IQ levels but ideas. I want to give children, teenagers and, possibly adults, a place where their ideas and poetry can be shared. The idea of an intelligence society may seem egotistical, but it is not about me. I have friends in Kuwait who can neither spread their ideas – whether scientific or philosophical – nor utilize their talents because they are forced to stick to a syllabus. It will boost their confidence and 10-20 years from now, they will probably win the Nobel Prize or become authors of excellent scientific researches or philosophic publications. We could also discuss solutions to the world’s greatest problems as well in our intelligence society.
Finally, what advice would you give fellow teenagers regarding the pursuit of dreams?
Become the pen.
Rayan’s book Words From the Sky is available at q8books (Bayt Lothan). He also has his own website www.rayanabdulbaki.com. An Untitled Pen will be released very soon. Follow Rayan’s work on Facebook and Instagram @RABpoetry.