The Turkish verse having the folk and classical Divan poetry traditions which the first has a history of almost one thousand years and other finds its beginning at the 13th century intersected with Western(and especially French)poetry at the second half of the 19th –century.
Tevfik Fikret, as a product of this happy meeting is one of the greatest poets not only of 19th century but all times of Turkish verse with his lyrical poetry as well his epics. With his work he exemplified of being a realist poet of sharply criticizing social injustice and at the same time having a deeply romantic and lyrical poetical inspiration. With these peculiarities and his efforts for the renovation of poetical forms he became a great pioneer of Turkish verse of 20th century.
When Ahmet Hâşim, one of the most important poets at the beginnings of 20th century distinguished as the representative of impressionist tendency in Turkish poetry; the other, Yahya Kemal, was immensely contributing to the structuring of 20th century’s Turkish poetical language succeeding to have a synthesis of classical Divan poetry voices with a pure Turkish spoken in İstanbul.

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Nâzım Hikmet,with his courageous revolutionary renovations in the area of poetical forms as well in the spaces of the genres and contents at the first quarter of 20th and his deeply lyrical and immensely epical creation during fallowing periods carried the Turkish poetry to the universal dimensions.
The influences of his poetry and personality have been feeling until these days not only on Turkish but as well on the world poetry as the influences of some greatest poets of 20’th century as Mayakovski, Neruda, Aragon, Eluard, Ritsos and others…
Besides Nâzım Hikmet should be mentioned the name of another contemporary poet of Turkey, Fazıl Hüsnü Dağlarca, the first and yet single Turkish poet who has been honored with the Golden Crown of Struga Poetry Evenings and whose poetry has been inspiring interest and admiration not only in his own country but in other languages to which he has been and being translated.
Dağlarca whose 90ties years of age has been celebrated recently, is continuing to create always as an innovator and there is no sure that this is an exceptional event of all world poetry.

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While a new generation of social-realist poets in the years of 1940ies have been giving their products on the paths opened by Nazım Hikmet, a group of three other young poets, Orhan Veli, Oktay Rifat and Melih Cevdet Anday, not totally ignoring this trend, with a manifest in an anthology called “Garip”(strange) containing their poems, opened a new period of renovation as in the poetical language as well in contents.
This radical attempt could be summed up as an effort of approximation of poetical language in a maximum degree to which of ordinary, to prove that any ordinary daily event not only should but must be serve as a subject for poetry, and to drive away the romantic sentiment(so called “poetical”) out of the poetry.
But notwithstanding to this fact it should be emphasized that a distinguish poet of the same generation, Cahit Sıtkı Tarancı, during the same period has been giving the outstanding products of the lyrical and romantic poetry.
The other well known figures of contemporary Turkish verse as Behçet Necatigil, Cahit Külebi and others have been publishing their first works at the same 1940ies.

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For Turkish poetry the beginnings of 1950ies have been marked by shock and pains of immaturely death of Orhan Veli and Nazım Hikmet’s leaving his country after 13 years of prison’s life.
But this period of 1950ies,nevertheless has a great importance at the processes of the contemporary Turkish poetry’s modernization.
Oktay Rıfat and Melih Cevdet Anday, the other two poets that were main figures with Orhan Veli at the “Garip” movement, at this period have been started to change their poetical ways in which now the conceptions of “metaphors”, “images” and the elements of mythology were having principal importance.
Especially Anday will have been distinguished afterward as the most brilliant figure of philosophical poetry in contemporary Turkish verse.
And at the same years of 1950ies have been given the first samples of a modern poetical vision by the youngest poets of this period as Turgut Uyar, Edip Cansever, afterwards Cemal Süreya, Ece Ayhan and others. The substructure of this new poetical vision has been consisted of some problems caused by living in metropolis in contemporary world and essentially were expressed by unfamiliar metaphors and images
İlhan Berk, an outstanding poet of the oldest generations of contemporary Turkish verse has been accepting as the most important living pioneer and master of this movement with his works marked by the poetical movement of modernity comprising from “dada” to “lettirizm.”
This poetical approach has deeply influenced almost all generations of Turkish poets of the contemporary Turkish poetry from that time to our days.
In the years of 1950ies Metin Eloğlu,who made his beginning as a follower of “Garip” movement, having more closely an inside regard to the life of suburb people and their language and afterwards with his special and more authentic approach to recreate this language in poetry, had his specific place in the modernization of Turkish verse.
Another highly gifted young poet of that period, Attila İlhan, who published his first poetry book as the youngest poet of the social-realists of 40ies, will have been distinguished as one of the most influential poets not only in these beginning periods of his writing but during all the time until these days as an avant-garde of imagist poetry, with his skilful to use classical Ottoman poetry voices and forms for making a modern poetry, with his poems reflecting both the individual and social experiences of the contemporary human beings, their solitudes and engagements, their souls yearning for freedom and adventures.

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Thus we are coming to the years of 60ies.
These years should be described as the period of a revolutionary renewal in Turkey as in all world.
The influences of Cuban revolution, defeat of imperialism in Vietnam, successes of socialism in the space technology and the revolts of 68’s generation deeply perceived in Turkey as in all over the world.
My country should be considered even one of the main actors of this universal renewal having a democratic constitution as a result of 27 May 1960 movement, with the speedily progressing social consciousness and activeness, with the revolutionary demands and acts of 68’s university youth, successor of 60ies.
It was the same period during which as a result of a huge activity of translation have been translated into Turkish beside the principal Marxist classics the main products of contemporary philosophy, literature, art theories, beginning from the surrealist and other modernist movements to existentialism.
The Turkish poetry milieu having been acquainted until this time with Western and especially French poetry , with the beginning of these years, largely had the opportunity to meet closely with poetical worlds of all countries and languages, from the South America’s and Spain’s to the Far East’s, from the East European’s, Balkans, Russian poetries to the Middle East’s’s, African, Scandinavian’s and other countries poetical creations.
This fact surely had a positive effect over the processes of Turkish modernization in poetry in the meaning of perfecting of it and being more variant.

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The poetical manifestations of 1960’ies expressed and proved with products by the young generation of poets of that period who were unified in several literary revues which one of most distinguished was “Halkın Dostları”(The Friends of the People) published by highly gifted young poet İsmet Özel of the period and the author of this paper, should be perceived not only as the expressions of a new period of social-realist trend but at the same time as the results of a synthesis that has been obtained during a huge accumulation of creative experiences and expressed by these young poets surely according to their own personal skillfulness and talents.
The Turkish poetry of today, that has come to our days passing through several poetical trends and giving always its precious products, in spite of its tendencies nowadays to an excessive and sometimes pseudo-sophistication (which is, I’m afraid, more or less was observed in all world poetry of today ) is surely consisting one of the most, interesting, fruitful and creative branches of modern world poetry.
Besides the poetical products of the masters of older generations as Dağlarca, Berk, Arif Damar, Gülten Akın, Kemal Özer, Özdemir İnce, Hilmi Yavuz and many others, the young poets of today’s generations have been contributing to the progress and enriching of our poetical world.
I believe that the forwarding of Turkish poetry to the world reader by the new and successful translations will be for this reader an happy discovery and should cause as well to the experiencing of a mutual happiness.

Ataol Behramoğlu
August, 2007




When I was a child of five-six years old, playing with the words was enjoying me.
In that time the voices of them, the harmony between the words interesting me more than their meanings.

And also it was that period of childhood that the music entered to my life.
I liked to sing.
But they were not the children songs that I was singing.
They were the songs of the adults which subjects were on love and nostalgia.
Probably during that time I should feel the relation between the voices of words and of their meanings.

The other companions of those years were the beauties and magic of the nature and my loneliness.
I was also not unaware of the feeling of love.
Another profound sentiment that I remember from those years is my pain and anger against the injustice.

Today, at this moment, even after more than a half century, I keep my faithfulness to that child.
This is, at the same time, my faithfulness to the poetry too.

All modes should pass leaving their places to the others.
The poetry itself also should be changed by the time that passes over.
But I believe that the real poetry , as the childhood, is unique and eternal.

As far as the humanity not totally broken down loosing its essential values, it will continuously feel a nostalgia for a lost past and a vague yet, uncertain, but
earnestly desirable future.
And the feeling of justice will also continue to keep its existence..

While these feelings will survive, the poetry also will exist as an inseparable companion of the humankind during its eternal and dramatic adventure.

Ataol Behramoğlu. Tokyo, 2 November 2008






Before attempting to talk about some difficulties of translating poetic texts, it is necessary that we think about what poetry is.
The act of translating is generally thought to be a transfer of meaning from one language into another.
Such a definition might be correct for a non-literary text.
But the translation of a literary text means not only the transfer of meaning but also the structure (style) of it.
Structure (style) of a literary text cannot be separated from meaning, on the contrary it is the essential part of it.
In other words, language of a literary work is not only a medium as it should be for the non-literary texts.
At the other hand, it is possible to have an idea about a novel or a dramatic work by a summary of their contents.
But for the poetry it is absolutely unthinkable.
There is no way to obtain even the least possible adequate equivalent of a poetic text by summarizing it or putting it into prose for the reason that the “meaning” of such kind of text is not only “conceptual” but also(and primarily) “figurative”.
This fact is valid even for a poetic text which could have been written for didactic purposes.
The elements structuring the meaning in poetry are extremely complicated and numerous.
The imagery of a poetical text is created by morphological, semantic, syntactical, rhetorical, phonological elements and also their interrelations. To them should be added the personality of a poet, his subconscious self, several elements of intuition, association, symbol, metaphor, etc., and lastly the circumstances of the social period and environment in which that poetic work is created.
The final poetic work is the result of the totality of all these elements and “synergeticly” more than this totality..
Besides all of these, if the interior voice of the translated poet is not heard by the translator, the poetic translation cannot be said to be successfully accomplished for the reason that such translations, as poetry it self, necessitate not only technical competence, but also a poetic inspiration.

Ataol Behramoğlu
March 2005