Tuna Kiremitci

Years ago... My friend and I are at Ataol Behramoglu’s house in Kurtulus, Istanbul. We are here to ask him to listen to the song we composed for his legendary poem ‘This Love Ends Here’ and, if possible, for his permission to use it. We are about eighteen or so. As the greeting continues, my eyes focus on the instruments hanging in every corner of the walls. There are many world instruments in the corners of the house, from the bendir to the tar, and from the lute to the banjo. There is also a piano (if I recall correctly). This makes me even more excited because it shows that the celebrated poet is more interested in music than I had realised.

After drinking our tea, talking about poetry and the problems of Turkey (Turkey is never without problems, hence it is always a subject for discussion) comes that unavoidable time which makes me shiver with excitement. I take the cassette out of my pocket and insert it into the tape recorder which Mr. Behramoglu is pointing to. A few seconds later ‘This Love Ends Here’ starts to play; it is the first demo recording, made in a studio in Beyoglu

The refrain, the first verse, the instrumental part in the middle section, the second verse and again

the refrain... the song starts and ends in three and a half minutes, leaving behind a heavy silence. Mr. Behramoglu puts his hand on his chin and after thinking for a few seconds says, ‘I wonder... is it a bit too fast?

As a novice composer, I am prepared for the possibility that the poet might not like the song; I am even prepared for him to laugh at us. But him finding the song too fast, I have to admit was something I had never thought of. Caught off guard, I cannot hide my confusion in the face of this appraisal. ‘Too fast?’

‘Yes,’ says Mr. Behramoglu. ‘I mean, it’s a bit too rhythmic... Though I think the melody is good...’

Then I start hearing my own voice. Boldness over takes me, from God knows where, making me say, ‘I think this poem is not as sad as you think, Mr. Behramoglu...’


This time it is the poet’s turn to be confused, sitting across from this big-headed eighteen-year old, ‘What do you mean?’
‘Because,’ I say, taking a deep breath, ‘yes, there is love that ends in this poem. But at the same time, there is also the feeling that life goes on. In truth, there is the anxiety of a young man who suffers for his love and his people, who nevertheless tries sometimes not to show it.’

Another silence... Then Mr. Behramoglu’s eyebrows go down and he smiles warmly, ‘Yes, you may be right. Maybe it can be interpreted this way too...’

Thus, we receive Ataol Behramoglu’s permission for ‘This Love Ends Here’. During those years, this composition becomes the favourite song of our band. Later, when it is covered by Haluk Levent, it becomes a real hit.
Seven or eight years after this incident, Ataol Behramoglu and I run into each other in Adam Publishing’s beautiful cafe in Beyoglu. First he tells me he no longer lives in Kurtulus. When I remind him of our conversation, he smiles sadly and says, ‘Don’t ask, Tuna. So much has changed since then. Countless loves broken... just left and gone away.”


Two recent books by Ataol Behramoðlu are photographed at the Greek School in Balat, Istanbul. Above, Mother ongue of poetry (Siirin ana dili) which is a collection of his poems; opposite page, Two requiems (Iki Agit), a collection of his essays on world and Turkhis poetry

Then, I realised that Ataol Behramoglu is one of the few poets of Turkish poetry who will always remain young. This is why ‘Love Is for Two’, ‘Don’t Ever Fall Down’, ‘Ghazel to the New Love’, ‘Babies Have No Nation’ or ‘The Epic of Mustafa Suphi’ leaves one especially with a resolute feeling of youthfulness.

Today, even though he is the father of the young novelist Baris Behramoglu, a tall and handsome young man comes to mind when I think of him. He is living proof of the fact that when it comes to poetry, youth cannot be determined by birth dates... In other words, what I’ve learned from having lived is very important.1

1. ‘I have learned some things from having lived’
is the first line of the famous poem entitled ‘I Have
Learned Some Things’ by Ataol Behramoglu, translated by Walter G. Andrews.