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Friday, 7 August 2015

Nâzim Hikmet Ran: Two Poems


A Turkish police officer questions a Kurdish boy about an attack on fellow officers that left one dead and another wounded. The attack occurred in Diyarbakir, Turkey, a predominantly Kurdish town, and came several days after violence that began with a suicide bombing that killed 32 along the Turkey-Syria border: photo by Bulent Kilic/Agence France-Presse, 23 July 2015


I was born in 1902
I never once went back to my birthplace
I don't like to turn back

at three I served as a pasha's grandson in Aleppo
at nineteen as a student at Moscow Communist University
at forty-nine I was back in Moscow as the Tcheka Party's guest
and I've been a poet since I was fourteen
some people know all about plants some about fish
I know separation
some people know the names of the stars by heart
I recite absences
I've slept in prisons and in grand hotels
I've known hunger even a hunger strike and there's almost no food
I haven't tasted
at thirty they wanted to hang me
at forty-eight to give me the Peace Prize
which they did
at thirty-six I covered four square meters of concrete in half a year
at fifty-nine I flew from Prague to Havana in eighteen hours
I never saw Lenin I stood watch at his coffin in '24
in '61 the tomb I visit is his books
they tried to tear me away from my party
it didn't work
nor was I crushed under the falling idols
in '51 I sailed with a young friend into the teeth of death
in '52 I spent four months flat on my back with a broken heart
waiting to die
I was jealous of the women I loved
I didn't envy Charlie Chaplin one bit
I deceived my women
I never talked behind my friends' backs
I drank but not every day
I earned my bread money honestly what happiness
out of embarrassment for others I lied
I lied so as not to hurt someone else
but I also lied for no reason at all
I've ridden in trains planes and cars
most people don't get the chance
I went to opera
most people haven't even heard of the opera
and since '21 I haven't gone to the places most people visit
mosques churches temples synagogues sorcerers
but I've had my coffee grounds read
my writings are published in thirty or forty languages
in my Turkey in my Turkish they're banned
cancer hasn't caught up with me yet
and nothing says it will
I'll never be a prime minister or anything like that
and I wouldn't want such a life
nor did I go to war
or burrow in bomb shelters in the bottom of the night
and I never had to take to the road under diving planes
but I fell in love at almost sixty
in short comrades
even if today in Berlin I'm croaking of grief
I can say I've lived like a human being
and who knows
how much longer I'll live
what else will happen to me

East Berlin, 11 September 1961

Nâzim Hikmet Ran (b. Salonica, 15 January 1902 - d. Moscow, 3 June 1963): Autobiography, 11 September 1961, translated by Randy Blasing and Mutlu Konuk, 1993

A Turkish police officer questions  a Kurdish boy after one Turkish policeman was shot dead in Diyarbakir [photo Bulent Kilic]: image via AFP Photo Department @AFPphoto, 23 July 2015

Protests, clashes in Istanbul's Gazi district: photo by @ozzyozann: image via Agence France-Presse @ AFP, 26 July 2015

Protests, clashes in Istanbul's Gazi district: photo by @ozzyozann: image via Agence France-Presse @AFP, 26 July 2015

Turkey accused of shelling Kurdish-held village in Syria (Istanbul photo by @Kilicbil)
: image via Kaycee Nightfire @KcNightfire, 27 July 2015

Protests, clashes in Istanbul's Gazi district
: photo by @Kilicbil: image via Agence France-Presse @AFP, 26 July 2015

Turkey: Istanbul police, protesters clash in flashpoint district. Photo @Kilicbil
: image via Agence France-Presse @AFP, 26 July 2015

Protests, clashes in Istanbul's Gazi district: photo by @Kilicbil
: image via Agence France-Presse @AFP, 26 July 2015

 Turkish President Says Can’t Continue Peace Talks with #Kurds #TwitterKurds #Turkey #PKK #HDP: image by Mewan DolamariHans Solo @thandojo, 28 July 2015
Embedded image permalink
During clashes with riot police at a demonstration against the death of Gunay Ozarslan, in #Istanbul's Gazi, #Turkey: image by Hans Solo @thandojo, 28 July 2015

nazim hikmet | by akabolla

Nâzim Hikmet (Bologna): photo by stefano, 9 December 2013
II...It's This Way

I stand in the advancing light,
my hands hungry, the world beautiful.

My eyes can't get enough of the trees --
they're so hopeful, so green.

A sunny road runs through the mulberries,
I'm at the window of the prison infirmary.

I can't smell the medicines --
carnations must be blooming nearby.

It's this way:
being captured is beside the point,
the point is not to surrender.

Nâzim Hikmet Ran ((b. Salonica, 15 January 1902 - d. Moscow, 3 June 1963)): It's This Way, translated by Randy Blasing and Mutlu Konuk, 1993

ulucanlar prison | by nsnx

Ulucanlar Prison, Turkey: photo by 'Enes Dilber, 19 September 2014

Nazim Hikmet | by J Kresve

Nâzim Hikmet (r.) with fellow inmates, Sultahnamet Prison, Istanbul [?]. "Si yo no incendio, si tú no incendias, como hacer luz de las tinieblas?" Nâzim Hikmet, poeta y paisano.: photographer unknown, n..d.; image by J. Kresve, 17 December 2008

Untitled | by urb_mtl

Street sign (Paris): photo by urb_mtl, 19 July 2010

Nazim_Hikmet_04 | by canburak

Nâzim Hikmet: photographer unknown, n..d.; image by canburak, 23 January 2013


Hazen said...

From this beautiful poem alone, I’d say Hikmet was a man who had the grace to live the twentieth century with eyes open.

The cutline under that B&W photo of Hikmet behind bars contains what I take to be a line from one of his poems, translated into Spanish:

“If I don’t catch fire, if you don’t catch fire, how do we light up the darkness?”

Lally said...

I've loved Hikmet since Bill Knott gave me a small volume of his poems translated into English in '66...especially love the recent translation of his Human Landscapes of My Country (well, seems recent to me but twelve years old I guess)...the poem in this post influenced me in more ways than one...he never seemed to regret his sacrifices in the struggle to make his country and the world end the repression of "the other" etc...

TC said...

Over the years I've met more than one Turk living in this country who has had little good to say about the Turkish government, this critical distance paradoxically going hand to hand with a deep, evident, ineradicable love of the country itself -- their country -- and a deep, surprisingly extensive knowledge and appreciation of the work of Hikmet -- their poet, whether or not they are there.

I believe his work "represents" not merely the voicelessly suffering and exiled people of the place he came from and left behind forever because he could not live freely there, but the unarticulated soul of the people of the world, the vast 99 x 99 x 99 percent, who have no say in anything, yet whose voices will somehow over time emerge and remain, finally, the only ones worth paying attention to, for the simple yet at the same time infinitely complicated and precious truths they contain.

The example of his poetry would and surely will encourage that emergence, for as long as people still have access to poetry, that lovely, dangerous, stubbornly resistant thing.

(There are, by the way, a number of extremely well-funded "official" poetry sites in this country, where hundreds, nay perhaps thousands of heavily-credentialed imperial superstar academic-careerist hacks, "writing department" ward-heelers and their tender copycat protegés (still wet behind the MFA antennae), and other safe, approved culture-industry heroines, heroes and hatchlings, swarm in carefully predictable arcs under the watchful eye of, well... money, power and popularity, but certainly not real readers... and you will have a difficult time corroborating the existence of Hikmet at any of these official sites, much less finding any of his poems. The last time I looked, the Academy of American Poets was displaying exactly one Hikmet poem, the Poetry Foundation, with its oceanic shoals and schools of lightweight minnow derring-do, and bait-bags full of Big Pharm donor money, none.)

Wooden Boy said...

What is astonishing is the absence of handwringing in that confession - delivered plainly and subject to truth. Nothing official about it.

Can't read where things will go in Turkey. It was good to see the Peoples' Democratic Party do so well. But the photos above cast their shadow.

My eyes can't get enough of the trees
They're so hopeful, so green.

Hope in living things, the matter at hand, clocked through the retina: that's the radical approach.

tpw said...

Hikmet's work remains so powerful. Thanks, Tom. (I was glad to see that Michael Lally responded to this post---"Autobiography" instantly reminded me of Michael's great autobiographical epic, "My Life").

TC said...

Very many Thanks to Hazen, Michael, Duncan and Terry for sharing my appreciation of Hikmet -- in which, my brothers, we are not alone.

Hikmet's big heart, crazy nerve and verve and joy in life and permanent spirit of resistance, so inspiring still.

I do like that big radio console of the poet's, in the bottom photo, with all those small widget-y thingies crawling over the speaker, much like leeches, or perhaps refrigerator magnets. Badges? The photo is undated and offers no location but my guess, late on, Moscow.

Duncan, it's disappointing but not all that surprising to learn that the Turks seem to have found in ISIS a convenient tool to round, once again, on their perpetual target, the historical victim of the region, the Kurds.

Turkey's not overly energetic offensive against ISIS (air and artillery strikes to push back ISIS forces in Syria) appears to have been intended largely to camouflage a new wave of aggression against the suffering, stalwart Kurds.

See e.g.:

<a href=">Foreign Affairs: Michael J. Koplow: Turkey's Cover: What Ankara is Really Trying to Accomplish With Airstrikes</a>

In a postscript:

"The government’s current military campaign against the PKK must be seen within the context of June’s election, and its timing is no coincidence. The strikes ostensibly focused on rolling back ISIS, but are being primarily directed at the PKK and come hand-in-hand with a political effort to roll back the HDP. Erdogan, who initiated the Kurdish peace process, has accused the HDP of being little more than a thinly veiled political arm of the PKK and slammed the HDP for expressing regret rather than condemnation after recent PKK terror attacks. It is all part of his effort to link the HDP with the PKK in the minds of Turkish voters."

Of course this was not specifically Hikmet's issue, except in the sense that the plight of the oppressed everywhere was his issue always, and it's not hard to guess where his heart and sympathies would have lain, in this regard, were he miraculously alive in his homeland now... and not, for once, mouldering-away in its jails.

vazambam (Vassilis Zambaras) said...

Hikmet’s “The Most Beautiful Sea (music by Thanos Mikroutsikos, sung by Maria Dimitriadi), 1975

TC said...

Apologies for the broken link on that Foreign Affairs article, a passel of botheration here, still no excuse... Here again, with the code got right:

Foreign Affairs: Michael J. Koplow: Turkey's Cover: What Ankara is Really Trying to Accomplish With Airstrikes

Hilton said...

Thanks for this. Too busy to read until now. Hikmet one of my favorites.