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.

Akberen Yelgezek

Aug 25, 2020 | Poetry | 0 comments

Translated from the Kazakh by David Cooke

Their meaning obscure, I dream of sleek black ravens whose croaking fills me with doubts and dread.
They have built their nests in my hair.

Like poisonous words, they’ve dripped into my mind.
They swirl around inside my head, dragging my brain with them in ever-tightening circles. In my dreams I’m weeping and find a house that was never built.

I have begged for others to come to join me, where my past lives subsist.
I imagine brothers who’ve never seen me. Glancing at ravens in the yard my spirit-dove scavenges food.

In the dark house inside my head my family resides. They live just as they used to my father and mother, my brother, I can see my grandmother too.

How I would love to cross that threshold, but can’t. The suitcase I carry becomes a black dog. The dumb wind moans as if it were whipping around a pylon.

I seem unable to get past it.

There are people there who watch me struggling. I wander around leading my dog, forever tugging on his leash.

Tearing around inside my house, I peek in through the window.

There’s no one else paying attention.

My father sighs, also, when he’s drawn to the window. Heading nowhere, I could leave it all behind me.

I seem insubstantial.
I’m a shirt flapping in the wind.
I sigh in a place of many tombs.

My lamp flickers. I shudder awake. The room is dark now …
I am feeling my way around the walls …
Has the room become a suitcase?

A Drop and Stone
It was not a real night today, the Moon was peering proudly. Lying on the stone, the raindrop whispered to the wind.

Is it a teardrop?
No, that’s an illusion.
What an interesting play!
I am also unreal The stranger’s fake thought.
Born of sadness, the tears in my eyes were not sad.
The raindrop on the stone was like faint lightning –
and the hair dye with its fragrance is also a cunning lie.

The teardrops are heavy stones. The stones themselves are huge dark drops.
I know that night is not a night. It’s a pulse of veins.
I am also unreal I am a grave in which my thoughts lie buried.

It seems that soon there’ll be no tears … that the agreement will not hold, that the stone will remove his dark coat and all at once stand up …
It wasn’t night at all, the last word was heard. Missing the illusions, I’m lying inside the drop …


Translated from the Kazakh by Belinda Cooke

May my earth remain whole its mountains beautiful.
May my friends and irreconcilable enemies be preserved.
It’s not just human grief that torments me,
I cannot bear the slightest pain of plants or insects.

I feel infinite goodwill to everyone.
May strangers and loved ones remain whole.
It’s not just human suffering that destroys me,
I am tortured tracing the night sky’s shooting star.

Even if I became weary from overpowering storms,
from sudden bursts of rains,
I could endure all – but I cannot bear to see
the hopeless, pleading glance of a child.

May my planet, and all its gardens remain whole.
May my towns and thriving villages remain.
To discover even the death of one stranger,
is as unbearable to me as my own death.

People will survive: evil days, tsunamis of the ages –
may my country and my home remain whole.
Lord, preserve this perfect world,
may it become your only gift to me!



Akberen Yelgezek

Akberen Yelgezek

Born on 24.01.1980, Akberen Yelgezek is a Kazakh poet and public figure. Although born in Almaty, he was raised in Madeniеt auyl of the Šubartau district in the Semej region, where he graduated from school.

He went on to study at the Faculty of History of Al-Farabi Kazakh National University. His poetry collections include Kôlеņkеlеr kùbiri (The Whisper of Shadows, 2009), Ġaršy (2014) and Šеksizdik syrtyndaġy šam (The Light Outside Infinity, 2014). His poems are distinguished by strikingly unusual images and surrealist expressions deriving from dreams and the subconscious rather than reason and logic. He wrote the autobiographical tale Bolmaġan balalyķ šaķ (The Childhood that Never Happened) in 2014, to great acclaim of the literary community, the work providing a key insight into the majority of his later poems. His verses have been translated into Turkish, Azerbaijani and Spanish languages and included in several international anthologies. He has translated the poetry of Dmitry Merejkovsky, Guillaume Apollinaire, Ivan Bunin, Vladimir Vysotsky and Varlam Shalamov into Kazakh. He is a winner of the Serper Prize of the Kazakhstan Youth Union (2006) and the Daryn State Youth Award (2010), as well as of Altyn Ķalam Public Prize (2010)


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