Tag Archives: poetry of exile

… in the face of Turkey’s May, 2014 mine disaster












“Ekmek hepimize yetmiyor,

kitap da öyle,

ama keder…

Alabildiği kadar… ”

~ Nazım Hikmet

There is not enough bread for us all,

the same is true with books,

but grief…

As much as possible…

(Own draft translation of May 17, 2014)


On occasion, I succumb to a desire to reflect on matters of political nature – an act of my least preference, as you know. Being time wise too close to a national tragedy in Turkey and the ensuing unrest in the nation – on account of the government’s enforcement of despotism upon its own people yet once again, I had to word my unease somehow.

The news article excerpt below highlights the pattern in the Turkish Prime Minister’s treatment of his people, one trait he had publicly established for himself during his widely documented Taksim Gezi Park confrontation with the unarmed protesters back in the Spring of 2013 (my related post appears at Unrest in Turkey and the Prime Minister’s Appeal to Allah to End it). We are able to catch a glimpse of what lies behind the latest protests rocking Turkey in the aftermath of the privately-owned Soma coal mine disaster of May 13, 2014 – the country’s worst, having reached 301 fatalities at the time of this writing:

“When Erdogan punches a citizen protesting in distress it seems utterly bizarre – until you get the underlying principle. He’s not expressing a violent difference of opinion. He’s saying, in effect, you (coal miner, poor farmer, wife of an imprisoned journalist etc) are not a sufferer; you do not comprise public opinion, nor are you the public, until I say so. I determine that. Because I have won the election. I can deny your reality because I won it, and I won it making you unreal.  So I delete (punch) you out of the picture. Therefore he can also say to weeping miners’ widows, oh please, enough drama, it’s not that bad. It happens, even in the fanciest of places. When it’s a real tragedy, you’ll be informed through the right channels (‘In Turkey’s Mine Disaster, Erdoğan Turns Tragedy Into Farce’ in Forbes by Melik Kaylan, Washington, 5/16/2014 @ 2:24AM).”

The following news article segment, then, provides insight into the influence this despotic ruler of Turkey has over his voters, whether by choice or by force:

“In the narrow streets of Istanbul’s Kasimpasa district, where Erdogan grew up and commands fervent support, his handling of the tragedy did little to dent loyalty to a man seen as a champion of the religiously conservative working classes. […] In Kasimpasa, an area where most women cover their hair and the orange and blue bunting of the Islamist-rooted AK Party adorns most streets, there is simply no other option. People will still vote for Erdogan because it’s like being in love with someone for too long and not noticing how they have changed for the worse [.] People are under his spell and not seeing his bad sides (“Erdoğan’s abrasive style unchecked by Turkish mine tragedy’ (in Reuters by Can Sezer and Dasha Afanasieva, editing by Nick Tattersall and Peter Graff, Istanbul, May 15, 2014 3:10 PM).”

In 1963, the merely sixty-one year-old Nazım Hikmet, Turkey’s most prominent literary name, died in exile in Russia. A thinker, a playwright, a novelist and a memoir writer but foremost the poet of the working class, he was forced into an exilic life for most of his years. For his poetry voiced the sufferings and rights of the working class of Turkey with unwavering passion. Nazım knew the importance of becoming a much needed and sought for but eloquently vocal companion to the underprivileged or openly suppressed. He also knew how to hear and listen to their numerous hardships – miners and non-miners alike. His volumes of homeland books evidence this fact.

There is nothing worth listing as far as the biography of Turkey’s current prime minister. There is, however, highest value in sharing with you the following Nazım-poem through which I join hands with that phenomenal legend of a human being in respect for the entire Turkish nation’s grief in the manner they deserve:

Öyle ölüler vardır ki;

Ben onların öldüklerini düşündükçe,

Vakit olur

Yaşadığımdan utanırım..

 ~ Nazım Hikmet

Some dead are such;

Whenever I think of their death,

There comes a time

When I am ashamed that I am alive..

(Own draft translation of May 17, 2014)


Filed under Reflections