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.

Poems by Edip Cansever

Nov 26, 2021 | Poetry | 0 comments

Translation from the Turkish by Neil P. Doherty

Translations dedicated to John W. Sexton

Dirty August

That too the hard-heavy nothingness of existing
There as daytime stirred
The white organ of scattering: heaps of salt
Like daytime
Lifting nature’s thick shells

Down comes the opposite of a fisherman
Dirty August! Things that drag me from here to there
A few hotels stick in my mind
Or they don’t stick in my mind
But not that the hotel itself
The brown coloured organ of loneliness: a heap of dreams
Made out of brown coloured flames

Nothing else needed, to see nothingness
Dirty August! In the end I set my eyelids on fire too



I’d had enough, there were cats up on the roof,
Men were approaching-a whole lot of men,
Me, Henri, Alain and Bob,
All of us incomplete today,
All incomplete today,

We know Henri, who says we don’t know Henri,
He is our tap, flowing hastily out of Europe,
As for Alain, well he’s our hunger; he knows a lot of women,
Who leave at all hours of the day,
All hours of the day,

I was tired, in the distance there were roses
From the flickering of a rose a new rose emerges
A moon makes a new moon of its entrance into the room
We love Bob so much, because Bob is one of the desperate
Like the dead really, the one quickest to stick in the mind.

It isn’t clear who passed through this lilac
We gathered up a lot of faces from the markets
Me, Henri, Alain and Bob
This is Europe, this place that is sometimes a poem
You, I understand,
But what use is understanding us?


The Gravitational Carnation

Do you know, bit by bit you live in me
And yet, it’s possible to be lovely with you
Say, we’re drinking rakı, as if a carnation were falling into us
A tree ticking away precisely right next to us,
My mind, my stomach left in tatters.
You lean towards the carnation, so I take it and give it to you, there
You give it to someone else, even better
The other person? He passes it on to the one beside him
And so the carnation goes from hand to hand.
You see we are nurturing a love together
I speak of you, warming up to you, but not just that,
Look just as the seven colours turn white
We are silently becoming one



From the top of a flock of trees
From the top of a many treed flock of trees
The sun falls like slices of lemon
Into my glass of vodka
I feel a joy that is not mine.

I am cutting where we stand right down the middle
Oh appearance! There is something of you I really don’t grasp
Not deep down, but in the veins of my feet,
There is a vast, towering precipice
That restrains there and fritters away there its depths.

Not over time, though in some place
I am growing older with something that is not mine.
Out of my first shape I pass, exhausting
This slowly burning brick yard,
Decked out in crystal chandeliers.

Ah, my stupefied heart



Ship creating its own fog
it slides, glides right under my feet
a harpoon bird flutters its wings
there in the fog
out on the sea, not a trace of time

The wind brings in smells of burnt honey
off the glass on the shore
off the seedling dust

I too am a seed
a seed stirred
abandoning me to myself
there on the shore
out on the sea, not a trace of time

Save the grander time
of the beautiful, of the pure


Translator's Note

Cansever was born in Istanbul in 1928. He began publishing in the 1940’s but it was the poetry he wrote in the 1950’s that won him widespread acclaim. He is often associated with the İkinci Yeni or Second New movement, a loosely affiliated group of poets who embraced modernism and brought about a revolution in Turkish poetry in terms of meaning, prosody, theme and language. While Cansever’s verse carries echoes of surrealism and existentialism it is also very much a poetry of mid-century Istanbul. Unlike some other writers Cansever never uses the crumbling city of the 1950’s as an exotic backdrop to his poems, indeed there are not very many place names mentioned in his work at all. However, everything he wrote is imbued with the spirit and melancholy of a city that for centuries was the centre of one of the greatest empires on earth but later found itself the unloved second city of the new republic. Cansever gives voice to those side-lined by history, those at the margins looking in.


Edip Cansever (August 8, 1928 – May 28, 1986) was a Turkish poet. The poetry of Edip Cansever has two main characteristics: Being the proof of his life and the result of his poetry craftsmanship. A new essence, a new verse form reaches the niveau of simpleness only after undergoing a layered process of craftmanship. Being an opposer of rigid forms makes him an artist of the Ikinci Yeni movement. His accomplished revolutionizing of rigid forms comes from the urge of the essence. He authored 29 books.

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.


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!