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Tuesday, August 07, 2007

Teoman Aktürel (1932-2007)

[Teoman Aktürel, poet and translator, passed away on the 13th of July, 2007. His formal education is in French Language and Literature and Economics. He was a family friend. While I was in high school, for a while every Sunday, before going to grandma for lunch, I would go to his small one bedroom apartment in Caddebostan, Kadıköy and practice French with him. Mostly, he would be just waking up, smoking his Birinci cigarettes. I would make him coffee and help him tidy up his perennially untidy apartment with piles and piles of books, journals, manuscripts, weekly and monthly literature magazines and newspaper clippings. Though I was not really a leftist then, I was begining to appreciate his left perspectives. At that period, I read his translation of Philippe Soupault's Charlie Chaplin (Şarlo) with fascination. His use of Turkish language was clear and sharp. While he insisted on using new Turkish words, he always did it gracefully, without sounding too obsessed with it. I really began to appreciate his poetry only later, in the early nineties, during my college years. For the Istanbul based post-punk, high-art to low-art fanzine Mondo Trasho (cannot remember which issue), I made a page using his poem "Devrim" ("Revolution"). I found this poem below in a collection of selected translations of contemporary poetry from Turkey.]


Poppies Bloom on His Poor Face

In the August heat, in Pergamon
I bent down and drank from the "Sacred Spring"
In the late afternoon
I watched the "Small Theater" in amazement

Opposite me, angry, hurt, sat Apollinaire
Shaking his bandaged head at me
In his mouth, that bitter tune "Au Prolétaire"
He moved to one corner, feeling very sad

Prisons are full up to to the brim
The number of licensed ladies is increasing
Olive branches, corn silk
The rich forever enjoying themselves

The truth is moaning under pressure
Mornings I'm on the sands, evenings on the Island Cunda
Wineglasses clink in Greek and in Turkish
Lover of love, I'm "both the dagger and the wound"

The sun sets, the moon rises in the gulf
Cheerful songs ring through the shimmering light
Women and men are all out in the open
Clapping hands, playing, dancing

The song-maker is searching for a rhyme
His eyes resting on the young girl's breasts
And he offers her some mint-candy
His heart inside the wrapping paper

Poppies bloom on his poor face.

Translated by Yurdanur Salman
"Zavallı Yüzünde Gelincik Açıyor" (unpublished poem)
as published in Contemporary Turkish Poetry: A Selection, edited by Suat Karantay, Istanbul: Boğaziçi University Press, 2006.

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