High on a wave of cheer having just received my official certificate in Upper Intermediate Turkish, I have been poking around book stores, libraries, friend’s bookshelves and rubbish bins outside schools, all in order to get that next big linguistic high. Just one more hit.
I am thus, currently being starred at from every corner of the room by books that do nothing but make me feel bad for reading them. I finish a whole two pages successfully, until the alarm is triggered by an extended metaphor. “You shouldn’t be here, should you sir?” the book frowns. They don’t call them conceits for nothing. I look to the floor, mumble “it’s the book that’s stupid, not me” and close it for the week, moving on to another text.
I’m just going to have to push through the pain barrier – with the Turkish course over, it’s back to the good old-fashioned technique of one man and his dictionary - together with a collection of short poems by Ahmet Ümit.
Sokağın Zulası (The Street’s Secret Cache) was published last year by the writer, famous mostly for his police novels and theatre, including the very intriguing-sounding period police piece, Killing the Sultan (2012). In fact, Ümit began his development as an artist by writing poetry in the mid-1980s, The Street’s Secret Cache being his first published work in 1989. However, in an interview with CNN Türk, where Ümit comes across as nothing but an exceedingly nice man, he refutes the idea that the book was simply a re-release in 2011, as there were many additional poems included from later in his life.
Ümit’s poetry covers a large period and deals with many themes, including the turbulent politics of the 1980s and 90s, leaving his hometown for the city, love, and some poems written for his young daughter. In the writer’s words, the book is simply “an adventure into humanity”.
Below I have attempted to translate İlkbahara Doğru, a nice descriptive poem containing the beautiful line, "What if I should remain a bud? But, what if I were to bloom?". I haven't got into the fuller meaning of Ümit's spring, but I guarentee this poem is not a one-dimensional ode to the seasons.
Poetry is an odd thing to translate, and without having a native speaker over my shoulder I feel like there is a great deal that I’m probably missing, but this is a first attempt. If you could improve this poem then place a comment at the bottom. I have written the Turkish original underneath.
On the Way to Spring
The sun's beams bounced off the leaves,
Dried up have autumn’s rueful droplets,
In the dawn lay its first summer love.
Rising just to go crazy,
Waiting for a sign from above.
Life was prepared to explode
On the path to spring.
What if I should remain a bud?
But, what if I were to bloom?
From your hair glistened an opalescent light,
That swept away the danger of the shimmering steeps,
Before it a stary eternity
A bit stale now, it can’t be turned back,
Her heart overflowed,
Stirring with the arching waves:
Covered in blander tones,
Remembered as an average flower on a bland tableaux
Güneş ışıklarıyla yapraklarında yansıyan,
Kurumuştu sonbaharın hüzünlü damlaları,
Şafağında ilk yaz sevdasının.
Çılgınlaşmak için doğa,
Bir işaret bekliyordu gökyüzünden.
Yaşam patlamaya hazırlanıyordu
Tomurcuk mu kalsam?
Çiçek mi olsam? Derken,
Saçlarından yakalayıp rengârenk bir rüzgâr,
Sürükledi ışıltılı uçurumun kıyısına,
Baktı ki önü yılıdızlı bir sonsuzluk
Arkası geri dönülmeyecek denli bayat,
Karışıyordu ki yalımlanan dalgalara,
Siradan renklerle donanmış,
Sıradan bir tablonun
Uysal bir çiçeği olduğunu anımsadı.