Bridge to Global Literature

Let’s all remember that more and more poetry gets lost without earnest attempts at translation.Read poetry here to get a glimpse of the rhythms and resonances of languages you don’t know.

Selections from Sami Baydar’s Poetry

Aug 20, 2022 | Poetry | 0 comments

Translated from the Turkish by Murat Nemet-Nejat

A person’s total weight
in the eye of another
even in death
in his belongings, I

saw your shoes.

I saw a piece of rubber
exploring all the rooms


ever as his limb’s thinning into
a limitless shadow

in the next

I only believe in a totally solitary uni-verse…
only that.

the girl’s pointing to a bite on her neck
reflecting her previous lovelife.

that way I’m matching, touching! lovers who have bodies.   

a man’s mass volume can be buried onto an alternate world
in his belongings

even if
I lower
pigeons I fell
in love with
in another world…

what if what happ’ns ness is
‘s still

—Kauçuk from The Gentlemen of the World

A Knife with a Shaft, a Fragment 

what you tried to lighten, scrubbing hard
I stuck a pin
into dawn
to see if it’s here.                  

do you understand now
that the totality of desire’s wounded
by the coming morning
the needle of the bee
is on your beautiful lip
and the pine needle on your breast
let’s pull down the curtain
and bathe us in drops of darkness

under cool shadows of spring rain…      

if you plant a sword into my sleep, that’s turned to ash,
seeing the blood drops, I will wake.    

—Sapli Biçak from The Green Flame


This day
I’m showing you
my honey
in your

‘m showing you the eye of an octopus
and and
the whiteness in everything.

I’m slipping into clothes
in bad temper, with desire
with anger

your hand’s
not touching
your body’s
not embrac’


Gyrating— the human body
gyrating in the sky—
turning dense…

birds have
skinny bones.


seeing the mature honey
in my honeywoun’
seeing the octopus’s eyes
seeing the whiteness o’

Cılız from The Green Flame

Orange, a Fragment 

I was an onion that grew in the mountains,
you happened to pick up.      

—Turunculugu Yüzünden from The Green Flame


Here there are hundreds of children like me
digging deep into each others’ bodies
killing time.
and at night their sounds are hanging from the ceiling
like live wires.

darkness is approaching groping for things to hold to
barely visible. I’m waking up exactly then
still alive,

barely, to keep the sea live in the body, beloved.
at one time one gazed also at the water. like the moon does,
as if darkness is drinking the passing days reaching
from the very deep.          

with a rock hanging around her neck the girl’s gazing at the water.
I’m making my possessions of the world touch water
until I can bear no more.
bending, I will hear your voice.
and  I will hear all sounds of the world.
suddenly I’m nudged & I’m afraid.
cover yourself my beloved. 

this poem depends on the carp’s jump.        

take a flight… and go straight,
the sky’s saying.
as if fall’n for you,
the rain also’s asking of you.          

I imagined the flying carp
waking up in the morning
by the river, thought of everything.        

as running water.
great things are not designed
they connect simply by themselves.

—Sevgilim from The Gentlemen of the World

Pigeon & Child 

the pigeon’s legs
appeared wild
in the green grass,
tracing its movements
the boy was oblivious
to his surroundings
to which
the pigeon’s
adding its somersault
the first day
of an endless holiday.


first day of an endless
the boy’s adding
his somersault, the pigeon
to his
in the


considered one, and together—
in this idyll—  

yet one


tracing the other’s
bubble quantum 

somersault jump  

(air is

in his
in its

Güvercin Ve Çocuk from The Gentlemen of the World, page. 42

Translator’s Note

“I am you, when I am I.”
´Eloge du Lointain,” Paul Celan

A space basically created in the mind, moving toward dissolution, is the heart of Baydar’s poetry. In this dissolution, basically, a movement through loss and suffering toward water, death, and emptiness, the soul marries the totality of nature and the universe. A hymn, a gesture of love toward the other:

                                                                                                                love, among metals
                                                                                                   the mind captures an object
                                                                                                   by the object).

Reading Baydar’s poetry , a critical fact to consider is that he was a painter before he was a poet—his university degree was in drawing and painting. His poems progress by the poet assigning mental spaces to his thoughts. Often, the structure of the poems consists of the arrangement of these spaces, and the music and the cadences they create. Language itself—the syntactical clarity of references within a sentence— is secondary, seemingly an afterthought, almost never, except for the puns, the direct focus of the poet. The arrangement of thought in some of his most resonant poems seems on the verge of chaos— due to sudden jumps and a shifting ambiguity in who or what the addressee is, partly achieved by the absence of gender and most other specifying distinctions in Turkish pronouns— a language which seems a mixture of flatness pierced by moments of dazzling clarity. What one has is a space of blurred meanings where what one ‘sees’ are interchanges among different cadences/spaces. The main impetus of Baydar’s poems is to move from the specificity of language to the openness of blurred spaces, the transition from the limitations of words to a place beyond them: in other words, poetry on the peripheries of language.
A limit of isolation and inwardness.
The poems in this selection come from Sami Baydar’s first two books of poetry,  Dünya Efendileri (1987) and The Green Flame (1991).

Also, read a Turkish poem by küçük İskender, translated to English by Gonca Özmen & Neil P. Doherty published in The Antonym 

Every Poet’s Fate Is Sealed By A Stroke Of Their Pen by küçük İskender


Sami Baydar (1962-2012) was a Turkish poet, author, and painter. His first poems were published in 1980 in Beyaz (White) magazine, and his poetry often focused on elements of Sufism. Several of Baydar’s poems were included in the 2008 anthology New European Poets. He died in 2012.

Murat Nemet-Nejat is a poet, translator, and essayist who was born in Istanbul and has lived in the United States since 1959. His translation works include Eda: An Anthology of Contemporary Turkish Poetry (2004), and I, Orhan Veli: Translations of poet Orhan Veli (1989). His latest publication, Io’s Song (2019), is a biographical essay written in poetic form.


Submit a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Ongoing Event

Ongoing Event

Upcoming Books

Ongoing Events

Antonym Bookshelf

You have Successfully Subscribed!