“It’s this way:
being captured is beside the point
the point is not to surrender.
Nâzım Hikmet, Poems of Nazım Hikmet



On Living

Living is no laughing matter:
You must take it seriously.
So much so and to such a degree
that, for example, your hands tied
behind your back,
your back to the wall
or else in a laboratory
in your white coat and safety glasses,
you can die for people –
even for people whose faces you’ve
never seen,
even though you know living
is the most real, most beautiful
thing.
I mean, you must take living so
seriously
that even at seventy, for example, you’ll
plant olive trees –
and not for your children, either,
but because, although you fear death you
don’t believe it,
because living, I mean, weighs heavier.

Nâzım Hikmet, Poems of Nâzım Hikmet

Letters from a Man In Solitary 

1
I carved your name on my watchband
with my fingernail.
Where I am, you know,
I don’t have a pearl-handled jackknife
(they won’t give me anything sharp)
or a plane tree with its head in the clouds.
Trees may grow in the yard,
but I’m not allowed
to see the sky overhead…
How many others are in this place?
I don’t know.
I’m alone far from them,
they’re all together far from me.
To talk anyone besides myself
is forbidden.
So I talk to myself.
But I find my conversation so boring,
my dear wife, that I sing songs.
And what do you know,
that awful, always off-key voice of mine
touches me so
that my heart breaks.
And just like the barefoot orphan
lost in the snow
in those old sad stories, my heart
— with moist blue eyes
and a little red runny rose —
wants to snuggle up in your arms.
It doesn’t make me blush
that right now
I’m this weak,
this selfish,
this human simply.
No doubt my state can be explained
physiologically, psychologically, etc.
Or maybe it’s
this barred window,
this earthen jug,
these four walls,
which for months have kept me from hearing
another human voice.

It’s five o’clock, my dear.
Outside,
with its dryness,
eerie whispers,
mud roof,
and lame, skinny horse
standing motionless in infinity
— I mean, it’s enough to drive the man inside crazy with grief —
outside, with all its machinery and all its art,
a plains night comes down red on treeless space.

Again today, night will fall in no time.
A light will circle the lame, skinny horse.
And the treeless space, in this hopeless landscape
stretched out before me like the body of a hard man,
will suddenly be filled with stars.
We’ll reach the inevitable end once more,
which is to say the stage is set
again today for an elaborate nostalgia.
Me,
the man inside,
once more I’ll exhibit my customary talent,
and singing an old-fashioned lament
in the reedy voice of my childhood,
once more, by God, it will crush my unhappy heart
to hear you inside my head,
so far
away, as if I were watching you
in a smoky, broken mirror…

2
It’s spring outside, my dear wife, spring.
Outside on the plain, suddenly the smell
of fresh earth, birds singing, etc.
It’s spring, my dear wife,
the plain outside sparkles…
And inside the bed comes alive with bugs,
the water jug no longer freezes,
and in the morning sun floods the concrete…
The sun–
every day till noon now
it comes and goes
from me, flashing off
and on…
And as the day turns to afternoon, shadows climb the walls,
the glass of the barred window catches fire,
and it’s night outside,
a cloudless spring night…
And inside this is spring’s darkest hour.
In short, the demon called freedom,
with its glittering scales and fiery eyes,
possesses the man inside
especially in spring…
I know this from experience, my dear wife,
from experience…

3
Sunday today.
Today they took me out in the sun for the first time.
And I just stood there, struck for the first time in my life
by how far away the sky is,
how blue
and how wide.
Then I respectfully sat down on the earth.
I leaned back against the wall.
For a moment no trap to fall into,
no struggle, no freedom, no wife.
Only earth, sun, and me…
I am happy.

Trans. by Randy Blasing and Mutlu Konuk (1993) / Poem Hunter

RELATED:

Nâzım Hikmet

Nâzım Hikmet / courtesy of Bundesarchiv Bild 183-14809-0004, Berlin, Schriftsteller-Besuch.jpg under CC BY-SA 3.0 de

Nâzım Hikmet (1902 – 1963) was a Turkish poet, playwright, novelist, screenwriter, director and memoirist. He was acclaimed for the “lyrical flow of his statements”.  Since he was a revolutionary in his time, he seemed a good poet to present today, the day we celebrate Global 100,000 Poets and Friends for Change and The BeZine Virtual 100TPC. (Join us HERE and share your work. Read that of others.)

Additionally, he has always fascinated me, not only because of his poetry and the way he spent his life, but because he was born in the same time and place as my father, someone I barely knew.  I feel a bit like I get a glimpse at the times and culture into which my father was born when I read Hikmet.

Described as a “romantic communist” and “romantic revolutionary”, he was repeatedly arrested for his political beliefs and spent much of his adult life in prison or in exile. His poetry has been translated into more than fifty languages.

Despite writing his first poems in syllabic meter, Nazım Hikmet distinguished himself from the “syllabic poets” in concept. With the development of his poetic conception, the narrow forms of syllabic verse became too limiting for his style and he set out to seek new forms for his poems.

He was influenced by the young Soviet poets who advocated Futurism. On his return to Turkey, he became the charismatic leader of the Turkish avant-garde, producing streams of innovative poems, plays and film scripts. Breaking the boundaries of syllabic meter, he changed his form and began writing in free verse, which harmonized with the rich vocal properties of the Turkish language.

He has been compared by Turkish and non-Turkish men of letters to such figures as Federico García Lorca, Louis Aragon, Vladimir Mayakovsky, Faiz Ahmed Faiz and Pablo Neruda. Although Ran’s work bears a resemblance to these poets and owes them occasional debts of form and stylistic device, his literary personality is unique in terms of the synthesis he made of iconoclasm and lyricism, of ideology and poetic diction.[5]:19

Many of his poems have been set to music by the Turkish composer Zülfü Livaneli. A part of his work has been translated into Greek by Yiannis Ritsos, and some of these translations have been arranged by the Greek composers Manos Loizos and Thanos Mikroutsikos.

Because of his political views his works were banned in Turkey from 1938 to 1965.

Nazim Hikmet was awarded the International Peace Prize in 1950.


Jamie Dedes. I’m a freelance writer, poet, content editor, and blogger. I also manage The BeZine and its associated activities and The Poet by Day jamiededes.com, an info hub for writers meant to encourage good but lesser-known poets, women and minority poets, outsider artists, and artists just finding their voices in maturity. The Poet by Day is dedicated to supporting freedom of artistic expression and human rights.  Email thepoetbyday@gmail.com for permissions, commissions, or assignments.

About / Testimonials / Disclosure / Facebook

Recent and Upcoming in Digital Publications Poets Advocate for Peace, Justice, and Sustainability, How 100,000 Poets Are Fostering Peace, Justice, and Sustainability, YOPP! * The Damask Garden, In a Woman’s Voice, August 11, 2019 / This short story is dedicated to all refugees. That would be one in every 113 people. * Five poems, Spirit of Nature, Opa Anthology of Poetry, 2019 * From the Small Beginning, Entropy Magazine (Enclave, #Final Poems), July 2019 * Over His Morning Coffee, Front Porch Review, July 2019 * Three poems, Our Poetry Archive, September 2019


“Every pair of eyes facing you has probably experienced something you could not endure.”  Lucille Clifton

Thank you!

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s