Tag Archives: literary translation

Nazım Hikmet on my mind again . . .

Feeling drained of mental and physical energy while in possession of little to none creativity, one day after the end of yet another hit-by-a-whirlwind-semester I am resorting to my safe haven today: To the incomparable Nazım Hikmet and his poetry . . .

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Things I Didn’t Know I Loved

Nazım Hikmet, 1902 – 1963

it’s 1962 March 28th
I’m sitting by the window on the Prague-Berlin train
night is falling
I never knew I liked
night descending like a tired bird on a smoky wet plain
I don’t like
comparing nightfall to a tired bird

I didn’t know I loved the earth
can someone who hasn’t worked the earth love it
I’ve never worked the earth
it must be my only Platonic love

and here I’ve loved rivers all this time
whether motionless like this they curl skirting the hills
European hills crowned with chateaus
or whether stretched out flat as far as the eye can see
I know you can’t wash in the same river even once
I know the river will bring new lights you’ll never see
I know we live slightly longer than a horse but not nearly as long as a crow
I know this has troubled people before
and will trouble those after me
I know all this has been said a thousand times before
and will be said after me

I didn’t know I loved the sky
cloudy or clear
the blue vault Andrei studied on his back at Borodino
in prison I translated both volumes of War and Peace into Turkish
I hear voices
not from the blue vault but from the yard
the guards are beating someone again
I didn’t know I loved trees
bare beeches near Moscow in Peredelkino
they come upon me in winter noble and modest
beeches are Russian the way poplars are Turkish
“the poplars of Izmir
losing their leaves. . .
they call me The Knife. . .
lover like a young tree. . .
I blow stately mansions sky-high”
in the Ilgaz woods in 1920 I tied an embroidered linen handkerchief
to a pine bough for luck

I never knew I loved roads
even the asphalt kind
Vera’s behind the wheel we’re driving from Moscow to the Crimea
Koktebele
formerly “Goktepé ili” in Turkish
the two of us inside a closed box
the world flows past on both sides distant and mute
I was never so close to anyone in my life
bandits stopped me on the red road between Bolu and Geredé
when I was eighteen
apart from my life I didn’t have anything in the wagon they could take
and at eighteen our lives are what we value least
I’ve written this somewhere before
wading through a dark muddy street I’m going to the shadow play
Ramazan night
a paper lantern leading the way
maybe nothing like this ever happened
maybe I read it somewhere an eight-year-old boy
going to the shadow play
Ramazan night in Istanbul holding his grandfather’s hand
his grandfather has on a fez and is wearing the fur coat
with a sable collar over his robe
and there’s a lantern in the servant’s hand
and I can’t contain myself for joy
flowers come to mind for some reason
poppies cactuses jonquils
in the jonquil garden in Kadıköy Istanbul I kissed Marika
fresh almonds on her breath
I was seventeen
my heart on a swing touched the sky
I didn’t know I loved flowers
friends sent me three red carnations in prison

I just remembered the stars
I love them too
whether I’m floored watching them from below
or whether I’m flying at their side

I have some questions for the cosmonauts
were the stars much bigger
did they look like huge jewels on black velvet
or apricots on orange
did you feel proud to get closer to the stars
I saw color photos of the cosmos in Ogonek magazine now don’t
be upset comrades but nonfigurative shall we say or abstract
well some of them looked just like such paintings which is to
say they were terribly figurative and concrete
my heart was in my mouth looking at them
they are our endless desire to grasp things
seeing them I could even think of death and not feel at all sad
I never knew I loved the cosmos

snow flashes in front of my eyes
both heavy wet steady snow and the dry whirling kind
I didn’t know I liked snow

I never knew I loved the sun
even when setting cherry-red as now
in Istanbul too it sometimes sets in postcard colors
but you aren’t about to paint it that way
I didn’t know I loved the sea
except the Sea of Azov
or how much

I didn’t know I loved clouds
whether I’m under or up above them
whether they look like giants or shaggy white beasts

moonlight the falsest the most languid the most petit-bourgeois
strikes me
I like it

I didn’t know I liked rain
whether it falls like a fine net or splatters against the glass my
heart leaves me tangled up in a net or trapped inside a drop
and takes off for uncharted countries I didn’t know I loved
rain but why did I suddenly discover all these passions sitting
by the window on the Prague-Berlin train
is it because I lit my sixth cigarette
one alone could kill me
is it because I’m half dead from thinking about someone back in Moscow
her hair straw-blond eyelashes blue

the train plunges on through the pitch-black night
I never knew I liked the night pitch-black
sparks fly from the engine
I didn’t know I loved sparks
I didn’t know I loved so many things and I had to wait until sixty
to find it out sitting by the window on the Prague-Berlin train
watching the world disappear as if on a journey of no return

19 April 1962
Moscow

Source: Academy of American Poets ~ “From Selected Poetry by Nazim Hikmet. Translation copyright © 1986 by Randy Blasing and Mutlu Konuk. Reprinted by permission of Persea Books, Inc.”

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On Turkish Roads to the Legitimation of Child Rape: Remembering Nazım as a Form of Escapism

Turkey: Thousands protest against proposed child sex law

The news was impossible to disregard. Regarded it, I have. Writing my reaction to it in nonfiction, however, was far too disturbing of a thought for me – an older woman, born into and raised in a modernized Turkey before leaving for the now similarly tainted United States in pursuit of an advanced academic career decades ago. So: I have resorted to poetry…yet once again.

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My poem below first appeared here on October 19, 2014 in Turkish – the language in which I had initially conceived it, translating it to English shortly after. The photograph above of Nazım Hikmet, known as Nazım Hikmet Ran as well (1902-1963) had donned this page also back then. I am re-posting the poem in question with minor changes in their original articulations. This world-renowned exilic poet of Turkey had in persistence written – among numerous other humanity-related wrongdoings – on the objectionable status of Turkish women in their country of birth at large. I recognized Nazım’s deep-rooted concern inside me all over again in the face of the latest uproar in Istanbul, and so I reached for the prophetic conclusions he had drawn in his poem, “Kadınlarımız” (the italicized sections represent my direct quotes from Nazım).

Nazım Hikmet’i hatırlıyorum…

nasıl da iyi tanımış yurdun acı gerçeklerini
kadınımızdan biteviye esirgenenleri
ister olsun tek bir başına ister kocasının yanında
olsun varsın bir bebesi, o verici böğrünün öz yuvasında

ince, küçük çeneleri, kocaman gözleriyle
anamız, avradımız, yarimiz kadınlar
ama anaya yakışan saygıyı
analıklarında bile göremeyen analar
soframızdaki yeri öküzümüzden sonra gelen

doğurmasa, erkeğinin asla göze alamayacağı bir fedakarlıkla
hayatın yegane masumiyet hazinesini ona hediyeleyen
herkes ana oluyorları kendine defalarca yediren
gene de yüzlerinden tebessüm nadiren eksilen
aynı yorgun alışkanlık çemberine
mahkum edilen kadınımız

Nazım Hikmet’i hatırlıyorum…

nasıl da iyi tanımış senle beni,
onu şunu bunu
bizi sizi onları

bilmiş çok öncesinden bugünü geçmişi ve de geleceği
‘avradını, yarini’ analıklarında bile hiçe saymaya
ant içmiş erkeklerimizin tek toplar damarlı aile sofrasına
katmış cömert bir asaletle bu dahi destanına…

I am thinking of Nazım Hikmet…

How transparent our country of birth was to him
How deprived of life our women are
Whether single or decorating their husbands
With their babies cradled inside their selfless breasts

Our women with their fine, small chins and huge eyes;
Women that are our mothers, wives, lovers
But the kind of mothers
Who are robbed of motherly respect
Even in their motherhood

Our women who are forsaken
During meals for the sake of our oxen
Women who gift their men
Life’s ultimate treasure
A breath of innocence or more
If it weren’t for them
Whose men would never dare to undergo
The same great sacrifices of the self

Women who must tolerate
Their men’s oft-shouted ridicule:
Everyone can be a mother.
You are nothing special.

Women who nevertheless
Try not to neglect a smile from the face
Who are chained to the deadening same old tired rut

I am thinking of Nazım Hikmet…

How well he knew you me her us them
The present the past the future
Of his never-forgotten home
Of its single-veined patronizers

He knew it so well
That with his chivalric saga
He welded our women’s one-legged stools
Atop the food table of their men who seem to have sworn
To belittle their wives, their lovers even in their maternity divine…

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Nazım uttered…love or lust, I replied

The commitment Nazım’s lover speaks of in the following lines is indeed vast, as is that lover’s determination to protect love for life…though these realizations are a reality only for the one in love. The concept of leaving, hence, never materializes in that heart.

Lust, on the other hand, is easy to leave behind…as easy as leaving the one who is merely lusted after.

Benim keIime hazinem çok geniştir, derdim. Senin bir keIimene yetemedim; git, ne demekti sevgiIim?” ~ Nazım Hikmet

“I used to claim that my word power was vast. It did, however, not suffice to your one word; what again was the meaning of ‘leave’, my love?” ~ My own translation from the Turkish original

portre

 

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“You will find poetry nowhere […]

unless you bring some of it with you.” ~ Joseph Joubert (1754-1824)

joseph-joubert-4

portre

[Image Credits: Google – Free ]

Heeding the suggested transportation of a precious cargo today, I bring along a poem that is one of my most favorites by Nazım Hikmet, a poet whose entire literary work I have been admiring since my teenage years. The translation to English is my attempt at a rather intimately-felt justice to this exilic author’s native tongue:

Seni düşünmek güzel şey, ümitli şey,
Dünyanın en güzel sesinden
En güzel şarkıyı dinlemek gibi birşey…
Fakat artık ümit yetmiyor bana,
Ben artık şarkı dinlemek değil,
Şarkı söylemek istiyorum.

Thinking of you is beautiful, it gives hope,

It is like listening to the most beautiful song

Through the most beautiful voice in the world…

Hope to me, however, does no longer suffice,

I don’t want to listen to songs anymore,

I want to sing one.

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“İstanbul’u Dinliyorum” ~ “I Am Listening to İstanbul”

Is there a place that has once landed in the depth of your being? Do your feelings and thoughts take you there once in a while or often? Lately, it has happened to me. Again. With the yearning having risen from casual conversations with close friends. Of all the possible regions that had long ago taken a piece of my heart, it was the city many find to be impossible to describe. In my case, there is no interest whatsoever to make even an attempt to say anything about this phenomenon other than having a well-known poem speak it all.

Like the poet I am respectfully bowing before, I, too, am listening to İstanbul today but to İstanbul of my heavily aged memories. And I do so in the hope that this world city will reconnect me to my mother’s grave – long lost in its physicality…

The Turkish original by Orhan Veli Kanık

İSTANBUL’U DİNLİYORUM

İstanbul’u dinliyorum, gözlerim kapalı
Önce hafiften bir rüzgar esiyor;
Yavaş yavaş sallanıyor
Yapraklar, ağaçlarda;
Uzaklarda, çok uzaklarda,
Sucuların hiç durmayan çıngırakları
İstanbul’u dinliyorum, gözlerim kapalı.

İstanbul’u dinliyorum, gözlerim kapalı;
Kuşlar geçiyor, derken;
Yükseklerden, sürü sürü, çığlık çığlık.
Ağlar çekiliyor dalyanlarda;
Bir kadının suya değiyor ayakları;
İstanbul’u dinliyorum, gözlerim kapalı.

İstanbul’u dinliyorum, gözlerim kapalı;
Serin serin Kapalıçarşı
Cıvıl cıvıl Mahmutpaşa
Güvercin dolu avlular
Çekiç sesleri geliyor doklardan
Güzelim bahar rüzgarında ter kokuları;
İstanbul’u dinliyorum, gözlerim kapalı.

İstanbul’u dinliyorum, gözlerim kapalı;
Başımda eski alemlerin sarhoşluğu
Loş kayıkhaneleriyle bir yalı;
Dinmiş lodosların uğultusu içinde
İstanbul’u dinliyorum, gözlerim kapalı.

İstanbul’u dinliyorum, gözlerim kapalı;
Bir yosma geçiyor kaldırımdan;
Küfürler, şarkılar, türküler, laf atmalar.
Birşey düşüyor elinden yere;
Bir gül olmalı;
İstanbul’u dinliyorum, gözlerim kapalı.

İstanbul’u dinliyorum, gözlerim kapalı;
Bir kuş çırpınıyor eteklerinde;
Alnın sıcak mı, değil mi, biliyorum;
Dudakların ıslak mı, değil mi, biliyorum;
Beyaz bir ay doğuyor fıstıkların arkasından
Kalbinin vuruşundan anlıyorum;
İstanbul’u dinliyorum.

Own English Translation, December 20, 2014 (unedited, unrevised)

I AM LISTENING TO İSTANBUL

I am listening to İstanbul with my eyes closed

In a gentle touch, first a wind breezes;

Leaves sway on trees

Without a hurry;

Far, very far away,

There are the never-stopping bells of the water-carriers

I am listening to İstanbul with my eyes closed.

~ ~ ~

I am listening to İstanbul with my eyes closed;

Birds are passing by, then;

From high above, in flocks, in screams.

The nets are being pulled in the kiddles;

A woman’s feet touch the water;

I am listening to İstanbul with my eyes closed.

~ ~ ~

I am listening to İstanbul with my eyes closed;

It is crisp inside the Covered Bazaar

Mahmutpaşa, so very chirpy

Its courtyard is filled with pigeons

The beats of hammers are rising from the docks

In the glorious spring wind, the smell of sweat;

I am listening to İstanbul with my eyes closed.

~ ~ ~

I am listening to İstanbul with my eyes closed;

I am intoxicated by the celebrations of the past

A waterside mansion with its dimmed boathouses;

Within the murmur of the died out southwesters

I am listening to İstanbul with my eyes closed.

~ ~ ~

I am listening to İstanbul with my eyes closed;

A coquette passes by the sidewalk;

Profanity, chants, songs, wolf whistles.

Something falls off of her hand;

It must be a rose:

I am listening to İstanbul with my eyes closed.

~ ~ ~

I am listening to İstanbul with my eyes closed;

A bird is fluttering on her skirts;

I know if you have fever or not;

I know if your lips are wet;

A white moon rises behind the pistachio nuts

I know it from the beat of your heart;

I am listening to İstanbul.

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In case you have…

…purchased a copy of my Trance, a collection of poems in English, German and Turkish, dear friends,  visitors, explorers, supporters of independent authors’ works, would you consider reviewing this Inner Child Press, Ltd. publication?  You have my thanks for your consideration.  The link is as follows: amazon Customer Reviews.

TRANCE Cover Full Final it 1

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whenever “tongue-tied”…

yılmaz-değirmenci1-profile

Being “tongue-tied” is, as we all know, a medical condition. My intent of using it today has nothing to do with medicine, however: I seem not to be able to express in words the heaviness my heart is under, for a loved one is being missed in sensory pains.  What happens to us, when we get “tongue-tied” as far as our emotional beings? With me, nothing else will do but to resort to a translation of what comes closest to articulating my self’s dilemma at the time.  So, for today, what I have for us is my (idiomatic) translation of “Vazgeçilmezimsin” by Yılmaz Değirmenci  (b. 1975) – a highly moving poem, when I am concerned.  I hope you will let me know what you think of it…

Vazgeçilmezimsin

Vazgeçilmezimsin
Hem günah hem kutsal olan şarap misali içilmezimsin
Gözümün önünde saklı bir sır gibi görünmezimsin
Hiçbir kitapta geçmeyen kelime anlamında bilinmezimsin
İdam mahkûmunun son isteği kadar özlenenimsin
Şafak gününü bekleyen asker heyecanıyla gözlenenimsin
Gün doğdu mu?
Vakit geldi mi?
Ayrılık sona erdi mi?
Hasret gerçekten bitti mi?
Bu hastalıksa ben bunla mutluyum
Ölene kadar inan ki umutluyum
Sen benim kutsal çilemsin
Vazgeçilmezimsin

You are one I will not give up

You are one I will not give up
Like wine, sinful but holy as well, you are not to be consumed
As if a secret hiding right before my eyes, you cannot be seen
You are my unknown, in the sense of a word no book has ever written
As strong of a longing as the last wish of a death row inmate
The one I ache for as excited as a soldier awaiting the break of dawn
Has the day been born?
Is it time?
Did separation come to an end?
Is longing really over?
If this is an illness, I am happy about it
Believe me, I will be full of hope until my death
You are my holy ordeal
You are one I will not give up

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