Contemporary Turkish Poetry

The new Jacket issue, Jacket 34, has just come out. It contains a 120-page section on modern Turkish poetry, including selections from Murat Nemet-Nejat's Eda: An Anthology of Contemporary Turkish Poetry, and additional essays on the translation process and new translations.

Through Western Eyes

It has often been said that the natives
will only teach foreigners a fake, degraded language,
a mock system of signs
parodying the real language.

It has also been said that the natives
don't know their own language,
and must mimic the phony languages of foreigners,
to make sense out of their lives.

— Linh Dinh, "Vocab Lab," American Tatts


If one wants to grasp the underlying principle of 20th century Turkish poetry in one stroke, it is that it brings animism into the middle of our global universe. Everything in that poetry becomes relatively clear from that perspective. Not only trees or animals, but in this poetry colors, objects, things, natural processes are in dialogue with each other, weaving their endless patterns. Eda is the structure of that pattern, the mesh of linguistic and geographic coordinates which go to its creation. Not the individual, but objects, colors, things are at the center of this endless transformation, the ego attached to it only tangentially, a detail, suffering and ecstatic. It is this peripheral relationship of consciousness to wider natural forces — subjective and objective, visceral and abstract — which gives Turkish poetry its stunning originality.


"There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio, than are dreamt of in your philosophy." William Shakespeare, Hamlet


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