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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.

Junayd and Other Poems – Asaf Halet Çelebi

Dec 29, 2021 | Poetry | 0 comments

Translated from Turkish by Neil P. Doherty


                          “leyse fi cübbeti sivallah”*
                               junayd of baghdad


those who look at me
see but my body
                              i am elsewhere

those who bury me
bury but my body
                             i am elsewhere

open your cloak junayd
                              what do you see
                                            the unseeable

where is junayd
what has become of junayd

what became of you, of me
has become of him

right under his own cloak
junayd became no more

*”Under my cloak there is nothing but God”, attributed to Junayd of Baghdad (830–910) a Persian mystic and central figure in the spiritual lineage of Sufism.





they appeared on earth

their heads are like my head
they have hands and feet
i do too

i ask for water
they give me water

they get what i mean
from the movements of my mouth
when i touch them
they do not run away

i ask them who they are
we are people
they say


microbe upon microbe
                           ever shrinking
mountain upon mountain
                             ever growing

with endless ants this never shrinking
                                 never growing me overflows


The Dervish Ceremony


the trees have donned dervish cloaks
                            & love now entreats 
                             oh master

a different image
this image within me
endless stars stream
to the sky within me
i whirl
       the heavens whirl
roses blooming on my skin

in sun lit gardens trees

halaka-ssemavati-vel’ard’h *
in trees that have donned dervish cloaks
snakes listen to the strains of the ney

drowsy the children of the grass
oh soul
   they are summoning you

i look up at suns that have lost their way
                                                        and laugh
i fly
        the heavens fly 

*He created both the heavens and the earth, The Qu’ran Surah Al-An’am


in my dreams i found you
and i liked it there so much
i never wanted to come out
we’re in the depths now
out on the expanses
and the dream
is me

it is myself i see
as i watch there inside me
i have a pocket that is
all dark
from there spill toy suns
and seas
and into my other pocket i slip them when i’m bored

you, my most beautiful toy
when my gardens no longer give me joy
and comfort me


the colours have come from the sun
the colours have passed into the sun
the colours have died without the sun

                                   i have no need of
                                   any colour of no colour

the suns have come from somewhere
the suns have passed into somewhere
the suns have died without anywhere

                                   i have no need of
                                   any light of any dark

the shapes have come from somewhere
the shapes have passed into somewhere
the shapes have become unseeable

beat on the big drum
all sounds have drowned in one 


Al-Hallaj or Mansour Hallaj (858-922) was a Persian  mystic, poet  and teacher of Sufism , best known for his saying: “I am the Truth” (Ana’l-Ḥaqq), which ultimately lead to his execution in 922.


Translator’s Note

Asaf Halet Çelebi (1907–1958) was one of the most unique poets in Modern Turkish Poetry. He was one of the few intellectuals from the Republican era who managed to turn to both the East and West at the same time and his tiny oeuvre contains poems that, while modern, seem somewhat timeless and, like the paintings of the Douanier Rousseau, somewhat naïve. Çelebi was born in Istanbul in 1907. He studied at the famous Galatasaray High School and worked at Osmanlı Bankası (Ottoman Bank) and the state marine lines agency. He began his writing life by penning imitations of Ottoman Divan poety but from 1937 onwards, he began to experiment with freer forms of poetry and adapted styles and techniques from Western poetry. He incorporated themes and motifs from his extensive reading in Persian and Indian literature into his poetry. He also brought his deep knowledge of sufi thought and practice to bear on almost everything he wrote. Çelebi has always had many admirers but none have ever successfully imitated him.


Asaf Halet Çelebi (1907 –1958) was a Turkish mystical poet. Although not very widely known, due to his erudite and often foreign-influenced style, he is considered to be Turkey’s first surrealist poet. His books of poetry include “He” (1942), “Lâmelif” (1945) and “Om Mani Padme Hum” (1953).

Neil P. Doherty is a translator born in Dublin, Ireland in 1972 who has resided in Istanbul since 1995. He currently teaches in Bilgi University. He is a freelance translator of both Turkish and Irish poetry. In 2017 he edited Turkish Poetry Today, which was published in the U.K by Red Hand Books. His translations have appeared in Poetry Wales, The Dreaming Machine, The Honest Ulsterman, Turkish Poetry Today, Arter (İstanbul), Advaitam Speaks, The Seattle Star, The Enchanting Verses and The Berlin Quarterly.



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