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.

Orhan Veli

Apr 16, 2021 | Poetry | 0 comments

Translator’s Note –  It would be hard to overstate the importance of Orhan Veli within the body of twentieth century Turkish poetry. He is the original enfant terrible, the punk who tore the edifice of the older poetry down and replaced it with something that still has huge resonance today. In 1941, he, along with his close companions Melih Cevdet Anday and Oktay Rifat, published a short book entitled “Garip” (odd, weird, uncanny) which in one deft sweep managed to turn the overly ornate and symbol-ridden poetry inherited from the Ottomans and practised by such neo-classicists as Ahmet Haşim and Yahya Kemal on its head. Gone were the old metres and poetic tropes, gone too were metaphor, simile and anything resembling hyperbole. Readers were brought face to face instead with the spoken Turkish of the Istanbul streets, the joys and frustrations of the so-called small man/woman and an irony that, after some 80 years, still has the power to sting. One can only imagine the shock these readers, used to the stately rhythms of the older verse forms, felt when they encountered Orhan Veli’s drunken mechanics and loafers, his strange epitaphs for the obscure and insignificant, his lippy street-children and his mock love poems that seemed to poke fun at the very idea of love itself. He went on to write four more books of poetry, a handful of short stories and some excellent essays and criticism before dying at the early age of 36 after tumbling into a hole in Ankara. After his death, he became one of the most popular and most imitated poets in Turkey, and one whose influence can still be seen in the poetry today.

Translated from the Turkish by Neil P. Doherty
Guest

I was bored yesterday till evening,
Two packets of cigarettes made no difference,
Tried to write, couldn’t;
Played the fiddle for the first time
In my life, went for a walk,
Watched some people playing backgammon,
Sang a song off key,
Caught flies, a whole match box full,
In the end, God damn it,
I upped and came here.

__

Sabri the Mechanic

Me and Sabri the Mechanic
Always meet in the evening,
And always in the street;
And always drunk, we chat.
Each time he says:
“I’m late home.”
And under his oxter,
Two loaves of bread

__

Epitaph 1

He suffered from nothing in this world
As much as he did from corns;
Even the fact he was born ugly
Didn’t bother him that much.
When his shoes didn’t pinch,
He never took God’s name in vain.
He wasn’t much of a sinner either.
Tis a pity, what happened to Süleyman Effendi.

__

Epitaph 2

The whole` `To be or not to be”
Business never concerned overly,
He went to bed one night.
And just never woke up.
They came and took him away.
He was washed, prayed for, and buried.
When his creditors hear he’s dead
They will surely cancel his debts,
As for money owed to him…
Nobody owed the deceased a thing.

__

Epitaph 3

They put his gun back in the depot
And gave his uniform to another man.
No bread crumbs in his bag now
No lip traces on his flask.
The wind was such that
It blew him away,
And not even his name was left behind.
Just this couplet scrawled in his hand
On the canteen wall:
“Death is the will of God,
Ah, but if only there were no parting”.

__

To Keep Myself Busy

All the beautiful women thought
Every love poem I wrote
Was written for them,
And I always felt terrible
Knowing that I wrote them
Just to keep myself busy.

__

Orhan Veli

Orhan Veli

Orhan Veli Kanık or Orhan Veli (14 April 1914 – 14 November 1950) was a Turkish poet. Kanık is one of the founders of the Garip Movement together with Oktay Rıfat and Melih Cevdet. Aiming to fundamentally transform traditional form in Turkish poetry, he introduced colloquialisms into the poetic language. Besides his poetry, Kanık crammed an impressive volume of works including essays, articles and translations into 36 short years.

Neil P. Doherty

Neil P. Doherty

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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