Song of a Dweller in a High-Rise Block

We present this work in honor of the poet’s 90th birthday.

Gülten Akin
Turkish
1933 – 2015

 

They piled the houses high,
in front long balconies.
Far below was water
far below were trees

They piled the houses high,
a thousand stairs to climb.
The outlook a far cry
and friendships further still.

They piled the houses high
in glass and concrete drowned.
In our wisdom we forgot
the earth that was remote
and those who stayed earthbound.

Translation by Ruth Christie

Itri

We present this work in honor of the Turkish holiday, Republic Day.

Yahya Kemal Beyatli
Turkish
1884 – 1958

 

The great Itri has of old been called
The Patron of our music;
How he leads the people far and near,
That conqueror of the day-break,
On how many holiday mornings early
Rattling the heavens with their voices massed together,
Have they chanted the magnificent Tekbir.
From Budapest to Iraq, even unto Egypt,
From the furthest conquered lands,
The breeze free-flowing o’er the homeland,
Brought with it sound from every blossoming spring.
This man of genius collected them
So that from the plane trees he heard us,
Heard our tale of seven centuries.
In his music flowed on one hand Faith,
On the other, all of Life;
From every side that brightness of the city, the Bosphorus
Flowed with the blue Tunca, and proud Euphrates.
With what voices, with our sky and earth,
With our sadness, our passion, our victories,
Flowed that creation, which resembled us.
How many times have I listened to the Neva-Kâr,
A refrain which is both broad and lively:
While scattering the secrets of the mode Neva,
Brightness shines from the horizons of the Orient;
Drunk with every syllable of his words,
By night, one by one they set out,
Toward the dawn go fifty million souls.
But Chance and Fortune enviously
Have hidden more than a thousand of his works,
As his inheritance there remain to us but twenty.
His Hymn to the Prophet, most awesome and profound,
Then appear the flute and kettle-drum,
And while the turning of the dervishes grows wilder,
His liturgy ascends the seven-tiered Celestial Throne.
He who was the master of a splendid world
Of voice and string,
Remains to us a mystery.
Our learned men know not, who was he?
Who hides his works today?
Are they a treasure kept by Eternity?
Does someone know? Where might they be today?
Death, which covers up such music
Leaves no consolation to mankind.
My heart still is blind
As in exile it passes many hours,
It falls into a pleasant revery:
Perhaps those compositions are yet played,
On an Ocean which never ship shall pass.

Rug Under Seagull

We present this work in honor of the 35th anniversary of the poet’s death.

Nilgun Marmara
Turkish
1958 – 1987

 

Countries on a misty atlas are
houses that smell of mold now,
plastered with the blood of wounded seagulls.

One turns around clumsily,
in the house it entered by mistake,
comparing the corpse of the world on its wings
with what happens inside.

Outside, street kids play
red and green games,
pathetic tissue with limitless freedom!

The pained body of the seagull drops.

Love is a little rug;
A little sea counted by its walls!

Translation by Sevda Akyuz

Let’s Drink

We present this work in honor of the poet’s 70th birthday.

Ayten Mutlu
Turkish
b. 1952

 

autumn is here
the sun and wine are witnesses
and the vine leaves yellowing on branches
sharpened knives of light are witnesses
to the regrets we’ve gathered
from the vineyard of time

let’s go to her today, to time
to the red Goddess who covers up our memory
with her tulle skirt

we’ve somehow already lost
more than we have
like a jug of wine we poured out without drinking

there are too many things to forget
too few to remember
the love whose sky we are leaning on, is witness

come on let’s drink
the rest of our lives
when descending evening like a break-up song
let’s the wine spread
within our blood slowly by slowly
Like a moment of Vuslat

Translation by Baki Yiğit

The Melodies of Forest and Light

We present this work in honor of the Turkish holiday, Victory Day.

Lale Müldür
Turkish
b. 1956

 

to Ömer

For it is written of them, they will not believe
even a voice from out of the grave
“I, Lazarus, have come from the dead.”
Transfiguration!
The Holy Prophets Adam, Noah, Abraham, and Jesus
As a race that comes from one another!
Those who did not see Elijah in John the Baptist
How could they ever see Muhammed, Moses, Jesus, each Holy Prophet,
A wretch whose every journey begins from the desert
One who suffers, one who is always about to be killed!
Pitiful human being!
Who does not hear the melodies of forest and light
Whose eyes are veiled by arrogance
Who mutters delusions of infinity
Who builds castles and houses,
as though to dwell there to infinity
Even the disciples
Wanting to build a tabernacle of leaves
For Moses, Elijah, and Jesus
meeting on the mountaintop
They were nothing but uncomprehending servants
O those who take themselves seriously!
Integrals of arrogance!
For it is written, they will not
believe even a voice from out of the grave

“I, Lazarus, have come from the dead”
And the disciples saw
Jesus turn to light
His garments transfigure in a weird whiteness.
Jezebel’s hatred and Elijah
Herodias’ hatred and John
The Jews’ hatred and Jesus
Prophets!
Rough drafts of one another!
Melodies of forest and light!
Behold a swan,
For you,
Splitting into particles of light!

One Day, Early in the Morn’

We present this work in honor of the poet’s 95th birthday.

Turgut Uyar
Turkish
1927 – 1985

 

Let’s say I knock on your door early one morning,
And wake you up:
That is, the fog still hasn’t lifted off the Golden Horn
The ferry boats are blowing off their horns
It’s still the wee hours of the dawn
The bridge would still be up.
If I knock on your door one day early in the morn’ …
Let’s say my trip has taken me a while
The train has crossed over iron bridges in the night
Villages on top of the mountains with five or ten houses,
Telegraph poles along the route
They were running to keep up with us.
Let’s say I sang songs out from the window
Let’s say I kept dozing off and waking up again
My ticket was third class,
So much for poverty.
Let’s say I couldn’t afford that meerschaum necklace,
So I bought you an apple from Sapanca.
“Haydarpasa here I come,” is how I arrived
The ferry boat shimmering at the pier,
Somewhat of a chill in the air,
The sea smelling tar and fishes
Let’s say I crossed to the other side with a row boat from the bridge
In a single breath I climbed up our hill…
If I knock on your door in the wee hours of one morn’
“Who is it?” you’d ask sleepily from the other side
Your hair mussed up, still feeling groggy
God knows how beautiful you’d look my love,
If I knock on your door early one morning,
And wake you up from your sleep,
That is, the fog still hasn’t lifted off the Golden Horn
The factory whistles are blowing.

Translation by Ugur Akinci

Defense Against the Night

We present this work in honor of the Commemoration of Ataturk.

05-19 Daglarca
Fazıl Hüsnü Dağlarca
Turkish
1931 – 2008

 

This man is dead and gone but
Time did not fall in the ground for long.
To the trees we delivered his life.
To whom does his heart belong?

This man is dead and gone but
We could not leave the dead man’s side.
In the endless sorrow of our nights
Why does this pallor never subside?

This man is dead and gone but
Still the river would not stay,
And like the birds of a glorious fate
It can carry him away.

 

Translation by Talat Sait Halman

The Hidden Treasure Is in Me

We present this work in honor of National Sovereignty and Children’s Day.

04-23 Abdal
Kaygusuz Abdal
Turkish
1341 – 1444

The ocean, the endless sky,
the quarry and the gems are in me.
Open your eyes, look carefully:
both worlds are in me.

The spirit and the body,
the proof and the evidence,
both profit and loss—
the whole marketplace is in me.

I am the purpose of mankind,
the whirling movement of the earth;
I am the school and the knowledge—
the seal of completion is in me.

I am the Muslim. I am the Christian.
I am the place they both consider holy.
I am the crucified savior, the good and the evil—
whatever is—is in me.

I am the Infinite, the Eternal;
I am the wealthy and the poor;
I am the rememberer and what is remembered—
Faith and faithlessness are in me.

I am the idol that is worshipped,
the Kaaba* and the sacred relic—
the purpose of human beings
and all that comes with them is in me.

I am the light particle and the sun itself,
the hidden and the seen;
I am everything existing under its rays
Lover and Beloved are in me.

I am Kaygusuz Abdal, the soul in everyone.
I am the infinite and the eternal.
The hidden treasure is in me.

Advice

We present this work in honor of the 310th anniversary of the poet’s death.

04-10 Nabi
Yusuf Nabi
Turkish
1642 – 1712

 

Look you, most poetry of novice poets
Is lovelocks and hyacinths,
Roses and nightingales,
Wine and cup

They cannot leave
The orbit of the beloved
The body and cheek,
Lip and moist eye

Now they wander to spring,
Then to the meadow
And touch upon the cypress,
The rose and jasemin

They cannot walk
The untrodden path
Nor turn on
The less-travelled road

They can neither hunt
Poetry’s exalted ideas
Nor lasso the unseen world’s game

They make their way
On commonplaces
On well-known and experienced words

That double couplet bends
Under two donkey-loads of stuff
The cloth of its meaning
Cannot be fresh

So do not compose poetry
With empty words
Do not draw your net
Fishless from the sea