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.

Bone & Other Poems— Behçet Necatigil

Dec 14, 2022 | Poetry | 0 comments

Translated from the Turkish by Gökçenur Ç. and Neil Patrick Doherty
Translations dedicated to the memory of Pēteris Cedriņš

And into the ceilings seeps a smell of tallow
From the candles so quietly quenched
And people looking right, looking left
In haste to bury something so nobody sees at all
And then down the long boulevard, they run.

And at night from the flocks, a sheep goes missing
And people looking right, looking left, pass
In haste to cross over one last time before they die
Then later in solitude, they sit and lick
A very old bone they’d plucked from the Wall. 

—Translated by Neil Patrick Doherty 

The Flowers Of Fear 

No flowers of the prophet—
Nor bluebells, nor cyclamens;
It was always flowers of fear
That graced our pots.

From the skies that we stared at frightened and jaded
Hope in tomorrow is all we ever asked
Children, homes, and bread…
But happiness, is this all there is?

Should a seed green in a poisonous ground
From the hemlock, it has drunk blooms
A flower of fear, a corrupted crop.
It needs to be grafted, it needs to be cut
But isn’t it too late for us?

Every line we reached became a wall
When we couldn’t scale the slippery moss
And what comes next you know well
The world is beautiful…
If in it you don’t dwell. 

—Translated by Gökçenur Ç. and Neil Patrick Doherty 

A Pale Rose When I Touch 

Many like her end up here
Yet no passer-by cares
I bend down and pick her up
She becomes a pale rose when I touch.

Wandering in one of those big cities
Among the crowd at bus stops
Or in a far-off corner of the country,
In a café or in a hotel
Wherever she goes at these late hours
She hides her hands in her pockets
Flowing slowly among the
Cigarettes and papers
I bend down and pick her up, she becomes no one
But a pale rose when I touch.

Or in the wiped-off lipstick
Of a lonesome girl
As she rests her head on the pillows
On the edge of the weary night.

Sometimes even in the middle of the day, she sidles up
Mostly in fall, you know when a cloud descends
and it rains, in that cloud of sorrow
I reach out and pick her up, but she becomes no one
But a pale rose when I touch

In hands, between the lips, in wild scripts
She is caught by the night nets
panting like a wounded animal
smothered, wanting to flee
Through the roads through memories.

Again and again, I bring her back, all night she lies awake,
Tosses and turns in the dark and becomes
A pale rose when I touch. 

—Translated by Gökçenur Ç. and Neil Patrick Doherty 

The Dervish 

On the asphalt plains, walks the dervish
Over falling shop shutters linger
Forever the fountains of sorrow: lamps. 

First slowly like a flowing skin bag
from tigresses of old, it glides to our shores
and the first bedouin leaps up and enters our tent. 

Where then is Leyla, and where is aslı?
Pillage, plunder and leyla!
The dervish hurls himself into the Ferhat mountains—
There must be a lighthouse somewhere ahead. 

Weary boats returning to shallow waters
Searching for the old quenched lighthouse
They cannot see for fire and tobacco smoke—
A voice rings out in the darkness: the rocks, the rocks!

Even in the ages when the fire was first found
The lamps still burned as they do now,
Then later on the asphalt plains
Came the floods and the dervish.

—Translated by Gökçenur Ç. and Neil Patrick Doherty 


Much melon eaten & much white cheese
Much drink drunk
Much disgrace suffered.

Forgotten how it was but still, pricked by thought
You are dead to me, they say, love was taken away
But who has waxed here & who has waned there?

Pain in short all purified
How many shutters seized shut, fields sowed in vengeance
And reaped just for us.

—Translated by Gökçenur Ç. and Neil Patrick Doherty 


Do not trip over
Each trivial example
A typical resistance.

Though buried—it still flies
Duped perching on a branch by times
The migratory bird is bound for eternity.

Wander from circus to circus
For I arise—& you, are risen?

A reciprocated lull lullaby
In this palace even the kings are slaves
& Othello, a mere hotel. 

—Translated by Neil Patrick Doherty 

Note: These poems were translated at the 10th Cunda International Workshop for Translators of Turkish Literature held on the island of Cunda in 2015. 

Also, read three poems by Constantin Abăluță , translated from Romanian by Victor Pambuccian , and published in The Antonym:

Only Loneliness & Other Poems— Constantin Abăluță

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Behçet Necatigil (1916-1979) stands outside the main movements of modern Turkish Poetry as an original and innovative voice. His early poetry was often narrative and highly atmospheric but over the years he purged his work of this element and wrote very concentrated elliptical verse that utilized all the properties of the Turkish language. The selection here is taken from his mid to late-period work. 

Neil P. Doherty is a translator born in Dublin, Ireland in 1972 who has resided in Istanbul since 1995. He currently teaches at 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.


Gökçenur Ç’s first collection, Handbook of Every Book, came out in 2006, and Rest of the Words in 2010, both from Yitik Ülke (Lost Land) Publishing House. He has also published books in Italian and Serbian translation and in 2012 his fifth book, With So Many Words On Your Back, was published by Yitik Ülke. He has translated Wallace Stevens, Paul Auster, Katerina Illiopoulou, and a modern Japanese haiku anthology into Turkish, and is currently preparing an anthology of modern American poetry. He has attended several international poetry and translation workshops and festivals and his poems have been translated into English, German, French, Greek, Bulgarian, Swedish, Portuguese, Japanese, Romanian, Latvian, Lithuanian, Macedonian, Serbian, Croatian, Occitan and Hebrew. He has run international poetry translation workshops, is co-director of the Word Express project, and is a founding board member of Delta International Cultural Interactions.



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