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Contemporary Turkish Women Poets
1.       portokal
2516 posts
 05 Mar 2009 Thu 08:18 pm

Inci Asena (b. 1948) attended the Department of English Language and Literature at Istanbul University. She ran the Adam Publishing House for several decades. Her poetry collections include Tramvay Döþeriz Ay Döþeriz (We Lay Streetcars We Lay Moons / 1993), Çýplak Bakamýyorum (I Cannot Watch When Naked / 1996), Amsterdam’dan (From Amsterdam / 1999) and Tutamadýðým Sözler (Promises I Could Not Keep / 2000 ) . She has one short story collection to her credit entitled Maskeler (Masks / 2001).

"Anlamadýnýz," Yeni Biçem, Number 10, February 1994.

You did not understand

I left my understanding to my child
As he will be born nude

The twentieth of the centuries mixed up your mind
A period of time resting on faith
The confusion lay there and you did not understand
That the day was decided by the sun
On our blue planet

I left understanding to my child
As this is a period of knowing


This is a poem about hope
Into the wombs I have sowed
You did not understand.


THE DEATH OF NARCISSUS“Nergis’in Ölümü,” Tutamadýðým Sözler (200. Istanbul: Adam Yayýnlarý, pp. 28-31.


Glimpsing his face on the water’s surface Narcissus was quite taken
with himself,
fell in and died, so they said, he simply drowned. That isn’t true.
It’s clear that he committed suicide.


The armored infantry.
The men set out to lay siege to the neighboring city.
The most intrepid. Beyond a doubt all were intrepid,
for courage was the fastest rising value of the day.
Here was a savage pride, an insane bravery,
a war that would linger on for months.
And the sadness it would leave behind.

He who went off would either die
or return with blood upon his hands.


Narcissus was not as strong as they assumed he was
It’s clear that he committed suicide.


While you could hardly cope with one there were not five
but tens of gods,
conceited, capricious, vengeful.
Should you dare to pray to one another turned against you.
There was hunger, poverty, the gods,
epidemics, floods,
on the altar then the greatest sacrifice I could find for you.

He who brings a virgin slave girl may in the end perhaps win out.


It’s clear as can be Narcissus killed himself
There was an arrow through his heart.


Eros, such a careless kid,
with his playthings in his hand, his arrows and his bow,
so inconsiderately aims first here and then there
that as a joke he may shoot the right people with the wrong arrows
in his play

love’s left unreturned.


There were people.
Power there was and passion.
There was misery and mercilessness
and hypocrisy and lies and strengths and weaknesses.
There was helplessness, there was loneliness,
the oppressors, the oppressed and hope.

That hope he never happened upon.


It’s clear that he didn’t commit suicide.
It’s clear as can be they killed Narcissus

written by Inci Asena


Melisa Gurpinar (b. 1941) Graduated from the Drama Department of the Istanbul Municipal Conservatory in 1964. She studied drama in London (1965-67) and prepared programs on cultural issues for the BBC during her stay there. Poetry collections: Umut Pembeleri (Pinks of Hope/1962), Yeni Bir Gun Sarkisi (Song for a New Day/1975), Geceyarisi Notlari (Midnight Notes/1981), Ara Beni Sevgilim Sozcuklerin Icinde (Look Me Up Darling Amongst the Words/1985), Yaz Mektuplari (Summer Letters/1986), Cocuklugum ve Olumum (My Childhood and My Death/1992). Play: Yeni Zaman Eski Hayat (New Times Old Lives/1993). Istanbul’un Gozleri Mahmur (Istanbul Has Dreamy Eyes/199 is a short story collection in poetic form.


"Sokaklar Ah Sokaklar," Ara Beni Sevgilim Sozcuklerin Icinde / Yalnizlik Mevsimi (1983). Istanbul: Yazko, pp. 150-151
Streets have their seasons too.

Some streets you walk in spring
the time of Judas-trees and nightingales.
Some are for winter-passage;
a snow-laden pine branch
bows courteously to greet you.
Some are hilly
when you climb, the north wind’s at your back
and on a Ramazan evening
you gaze and gaze at a dusty clusters of unripe grapes.
There are wide straight streets.
Sheltering between their walls
horse-chestnut trees grow high along both sides.
Asphalt roads give back their warmth to the sun
and stony roads gather rainwater in their bosoms.
There are streets where tar
drips from the stovepipes on the sidewalk.
Lovers frequent the unlit streets
and when the south wind blows they stray
on roads going down to the sea.
The street of planetrees is finest in autumn.
In unpaved streets that delight children
birds who’ve forgotten how to fly strut side by side.

There are narrow streets, rundown and shadowy.
In spring-cleaning season the houses overflow
and on festival mornings
a kilim and a pot of basil sometimes embrace.

A street without seasons
where I’ve never strayed yet
in a tiny corner of the world
is waiting impatiently for me.

Salkimsogutlerin Golgesinde (1998). Istanbul: Can Yayinlari, pp. 9 / 13 / 60 / 67 / 105.
Prose Poems

The house of poetry is small and flimsy, it has a garden. Alone and separate there in the middle of a city, it seems to be waiting for a hand to tumble it down.
Words are its bricks and stones, as everyone knows. Its foundation a temporary soul. Its cement is death. It is watertight against the world. The door is freedom, the window memories.
Ah, this little house of secrets! Who shelters inside? A street-child or a wise old beggar? You can’t tell from outside. Neither the door nor the window opens the easy way. In the dead of winter till the dawn of the longest night, only the smoke of dreams drifts from the chimney. Dozing in the attic, love listens to the rain song. But in this house love and tears are always kept hidden. The sun drops in now and then and sits on the edge of the doorstep. Clouds over its face quietly announce a storm.
The house of poetry has a garden, I said, but that untended garden is life. The dry well in the middle, its flowers, its grasses, distract the body, exhaust and abuse it.
Human beings are certainly not missing from the scene. They rush past, paying no attention to anyone, pursuing their own ways, their own fables. I ask them hurriedly what they remember. Some days I am so deep in talk with them and so far from home that I forget to return, and then when evening falls, we have to find rooms. The knife has to be thrust into the black bread, the candles must be lit. It’s like sending a signal to the stars by the light of hope.
If a stranger appears at night in the house of poetry, alone and a thousand years old, as the shadows on the wall keep growing and lengthening, I wonder which poets he will recall?
Everyone mounts the steed of their own voice and rides off, am I the only one left, would you say, in these abandoned, secluded spots, searching for the oldest face? (p. 9)

* * *

I think the wind of the four seasons should breathe through a poem. All the leaves of his life’s calendar, like the blanket on a sick man near death, should stir imperceptibly. In the poem there should be a constant coming-together of summer and winter, love and hatred. With the mysterious equilibrium of a rocking cradle, these meetings should transport life beyond its tomorrows.
There should be the pull of gravity in a poem, an eclipse of the sun. And the moon should be entangled with a cloud, lightning should strike. Language must be enduring like a caravan struggling through a sandstorm. It must go as far as it can, following the trail of the poem. With enthusiasm, like running free in the uninhabited fields of childhood.
Days bound together, never severed, never forgotten, remnants from rainy mornings, still midafternoons. I think the poet must climb the towers of suffering. In the space before his heart and behind it, there should fly skeletons, extinct volcanoes, dried-up seas. Every letter must be a scream, every line a bloodstained sword.
And when evening comes the poet should conceal his poem under a magic blanket, the silence of an uninhabited planet. (p. 13)

* * *

There was an aunt of mine who would immediately bury in earth every lemon-pip she found. What she wanted to see were two shiny leaves springing out opposite each other. Perhaps she yearned for the south. All her life she had nursed a hopeless love for an officer whose hair smelt of lemon blossom.
The day she died her room was full of miracles. In every flowerpot beamed tiny lemon shoots which could never grow tall but which sang a chorus of hope. And there was an envelope under her pillow. Inside was a short love-letter, left unposted. (p. 6

* * *

I’ll never forget how, when I was still a little child, I spent a long night shut up in the cellar in the company of our sacrificial lamb, beside empty wine-bottles and chunks of coal.
Grandfather — he was in the attic playing the ney. All the garden lights were ablaze. You would think it was God’s holy light pouring from heaven. Ah, my eyes might be dazzled but in the long run there was death, wandering in our midst. This I was able to understand right from that moment. (p. 67)

* * *

Ask any poet — in the mystic darkness of other lands, others have always written poems that raised the heavy lids of cisterns to reveal the wells deep in all their hearts.
As for the happiness that belongs to no one and is wind-borne some days into the shadow of the willow trees, at best it is the echo of bells ringing in a deserted temple, far, far away. (p. 105)

* * *

She was born and raised in Bandirma, Turkey, where at the age of ten began to write poetry and stories. Her political activism began in high school, when she was fifteen years old. She was educated at Yýldýz Technical University and Ýstanbul University and graduated from Management Faculty Of Ýstanbul University in 1975. She was recently retired from The Central Bank of Turkey. When she was in political activity, also attempted Women Rights Movement.
Mutlu has published poetry, prose, stories and criticism. She has also translated, poems of contemporary poets from English to Turkish of which many of them are published in periodicals. She recently translated women poets from Antiquity to now with selections from all the world.

Some Critics wrote about her poems;
“Her poetry reflects a struggle within herself, as well as a view of the world in which all horror and beauty are seen at once and often intermingled. “
“Her opposition and political ideas are reflected in her poems but from a lyrical sky.”
“Mutlu is a master of condensed poem, of the image that illuminates and quietly explodes with sound and meaning.”
She said about her work;”My aim is to write poems that will sing all people’s songs on the world. I wish to reach and touch people in mines, on farms, home, factories, prisons: to entertain, to show, to illuminate. Because, I believe that poetry is wide like life and will somehow succesfully call real people in the people.”



calls me
waking up of a leaf to automn
inside me

a desire
to a journey
to the untouched
carries my sound

in order to touch
a faraway heart
i look for
my hands

in death´s history


a swallow´s
the shadows
loaded with
golden powder

pale stains
in my brain

takes and hurls me
to the history
of a leaf
in the wind



time is water
you are the appearance of life on it

with stormy wings
you are entering in my house
in the heart of solitude

you are bringing a garden holding its hand
a garden which has learned birds language
a garden which has knowns flowers
a garden which has walked rivers

while wating birds´ coming
you are going away
leaving in my hands
a paralysed garden
a silent garden
a garden which has forgotten his dreams

the wing´s sound in the water was being effaced

Translated by Tozan Alkan


between the earth and sky tiny houses
murmuring rooms, half-open windows
utensils, chairs, a weary table
small habits, worn-out tastes
a handful of dust, an afternoon shadow
and time sitting proudly in a corner seat

between walls familiar to one another
so many belongings, so much anguish, so little love
a little bit of salt taken from the sea, a light-hearted feeling
from the sun, a kiss, a laugh
whispers, the mist on the flowers in the vase
and the smell of death
pervading the moment´s haste

between the earth and sky a gathering of souls
a cup of wrath, immense grief
screams, entreaties, deep silence
and this thirst for life
which keeps flowing
and flowing
hitting against the veins of tiny houses

Translated by Suat Karantay ; The Turkish PEN, 1998

Translated by Tozan Alkan

you asked me the name of time
an ocean´s death was lying in your sound
time and me, we are so resemled to each other, said i
we are carrying cold stones without being fed up
to a river drifting a life

i said "start my eyes"
with the voice of a passenger who´s lost his name
start the alphabet of that old journey
for each story a passenger is required
there must me someone reading tears
in an amphora´s broken heart.

Translated by Tozan Alkan


Lale Muldur (b. 1956) studied poetry in Florence. She holds a BS degree in economics and an MA in sociology of literature. Several of her poems have been set to music. Her major poetry collections include Uzak Firtina (Distant Storm / 1988), Voyacir 2 (Voyager 2 / 1990—co-authored with Ahmet Guntan), Seriler Kitabi (Book of Series / 1991), Kuzey Defterleri (Northern Note-Books / 1992), Divanu Lûgat-it Turk (1998) and Saatler / Geyikler (Hours / Deer / 2001).

” Voyacir 2 (199. Istanbul: Metis Yayinlari, pp. 39-41.

a babylonian water goddess perhaps she is...turquoise...mutable...
white seashell woman...with her seven stars and her astral twin...
Linga Sarira...before she started to offer the elixir of life
how many iris years have thus passed...a black and white butterfly
is her soul...she reads the alphabet of the river’s passing...aqua...
floods and vapors long to return to their sources...
the rainbow bridge sketches the promise of a new era...
a star the synthesis of water and fire...far away...
farther away...dies out...to shine...
tiger and mercury...from a celestial arc...from a celestial arc...
will learn faith...will learn...
a black and white butterfly taps at her window . hullabaloo .
a bird flying crosswise .
birds whose courses cannot be foreseen .
in scattered helixes heading somewhere .
two submarines .
cool fearsome and indifferent .
uncanny leaden shadows . shade-marked attributes .
it’s not the year for the revelation and apparition of attributes .
it’s the year for the revelation of their shadows .
two submarines . the leaden shadows of which . lead .
the frightening resolution of black and white . lead .
a soldier carrying herbal roots .
a girl seeking water crying .

between two clouds . two islands . convergencies .
convergencies between . between the convergencies
mirror conversations . in amazement and horror .
those brought face to face . half opening the
seagulls of elegance swallowed stones like weeping angels . turn .
ing slowly around themselves . passing through walls .
like fish dragged sluggishly out of water .
like fragile seagulls turned to stone we are crying night after night .

I know now who the albinos are .
and that they don’t cry .
to write to erase to destroy to create I was born . or so I think .
poles and twins . awaiting . un . ion .
does this frighten you .
and yet scripts are being e.r.a.s.e.d books destroyed .
if I now told you something that’s been said over and over .
like everything is one .
you’d laugh at me .
this does not scare me .

mirror-like crags show shadows of flying birds .
the summits are draped in clouds .
probably rain is falling somewhere above .
the last birds fly crosswise .
I know you are t(H)ere . waiting for me (H) .
the tune you send me from (O)rissa .
this hot breath .
hits me and returns to Him...H...two...O
these...the things that could happen between us...
they form a single definite line . a
w i s e flight .
a flight that could terrify .
I know this and I fear...

“Orman ve Isik Melodileri,” 1997 Siir Yilligi (1997 / ed. Mehmet H. Dogan). Istanbul: Adam Yayinlari, pp. 103-104

For it was written, they shall not believe
even the voice from beyond the grave
“I am Lazarus, come from the dead!”

Adam, Noah, Abraham and Christ
descending in direct line from one another!
How could they possibly recognize
Moses, Mohammed and Jesus
When they failed to recognize Elijah in John the Baptist!
All desert dwellers
Men in throes who challenged death!

How pitiful a creature is man!
He turns a deaf ear to luminary sylvan tunes
Blinded by pride
He murmurs delusions of infinity
Builds houses
intending to dwell in them till the end of time

Even the apostles
Who met on the high mountain
Wanting to pitch a tent made out of leaves
For Moses, Elijah and Jesus
Were but simpleton slaves

O you, who take yourselves so seriously!
Integrals of pride!
For it was written
They would not even believe the voice from beyond the grave

“I am Lazarus, come from the dead!”
And the apostles saw
Jesus transformed into light
His clothes emitting a strange white glow

Jezebel’s hatred and Elijah
Herod’s hatred and John the Baptist
The hatred of Jews and Jesus

Each other’s sketches!
Luminary sylvan tunes!

Behold a swan
Disintegrating into particles of light
For you!


Sennur Sezer
(b. 1943) abandoned her high school education to work as a bookkeeper and editorial assistant for the literary magazine Varlýk. She is a poet with a strong social conscience expressed in sensitive and, at times, bitter tones. Her major poetry collections include Gecekondu (Shanty / 1964), Yasak (Forbidden / 1966), Direnç (Resistance / 1979), Gerçeðin Masalý (Fairytale of Reality / 1979), Kimlik Kartý (Identification Card / 1983), Bu Resimde Kimler Var (Who Is in This Picture / 1986—winner of the 1987 Halil Kocagöz Poetry Award), Afiþ (Poster / 1991) and Bir Annenin Notlarý (A Mother’s Notes /

THE SONG OF THOSE WHO WEAR SECOND-HAND CLOTHES“Baþkalarýnýn Eskilerini Giyenin Þarkýsý,” 1997 Þiir Yýllýðý (1997 / ed. Mehmet H. Doðan). Istanbul: Adam Yayýnlarý, pp. 59

Once you’ve grown weary of purchased dreams
Throw them away and never look back
For I shall be there.
A dream of kissing in the moonlight
A worn-out velvet blouse silver embroidered
A repeated honeymoon with straps of lace
I don’t think I’ll wear it again... I’m so cold.
My dreams
Need warmth.

Soup left half-finished
Steak sent back and “cheating” is not my habit
Your summer clogs have thin heels
What I need is something thick and washable
Something I’m as familiar with as my relatives
And color, color it must surely have
To hide my wear and tear.

In your markets you’ve no fabrics for sale
Which conjure up my childhood days when I touch them
Jealously concealing cherished secrets of my youth.

The size of your garments were not designed to fit my pains
You know what a fear it is
To grow old and be forsaken.
I have a whole range of them
But they do not coincide with yours
Mine are mostly born of affection.

It’s your second-hand garments that are sold in this department
And those are the ones I can afford.
The touch of my hands brings them back to life
Or is it by chance you who are worn out?

WAR SEPARATES NOT LOVERS“Savaþ Ayýrmaz Seviþenleri,” Yasak (1966). Istanbul: Habora Kitabevi Yayýnlarý, p. 14.

Only a step away from bullets blind
At the shivering tip of my cigarette
I relish your kiss like a knife

Pebbles were shy
Of our madness fervently in love
The dawn was a vast cry
The sea nearly afire
A steel whetted to the utmost
Now the day we recall loving
Our kisses are cold—keen
Like a depleted pain “the wedding”

From your hands only a step away
Only a step away from bullets blind
I relish your kiss like a knife


BEJAN MATUR was born in 1968 in the village of Maksuttushaa near Kahraman Marash in south-eastern Turkey. A graduate of the Faculty of Law at Ankara University, her award-winning first collection ´Ruzgar Dolu Konaklar´ (Windswept Mansions) was published in 1996. Her second collection, ´Tanri Gormesin Harflerimi´ (Let God Not See My Letters) appeared in 1999. Her third collection is due in Summer 2002. She lives in Istanbul.


All the crimson stones on earth
Are smeared with god’s blood.
And so it is these crimson stones
Instruct us in our youth.
God, beside us
In our childhood,
Touches our earrings,
Our necklaces too;
Enters our shoes, the folds
Of our girlish ribbons
And hides.

I should buy a crimson dress and bed,
A crimson ring
And lamp.
That time must come
When motherhood begins, then peters out.

Blood that knows to wait
Knows also to be stone.
I’ve learnt, it hurts to be in this world.

Crimson dark
Blue dark
And the beginning
Must surely make sense, -
Neither god nor our mothers desert us.

Translated from the Turkish by George Messo


All the red stones on earth are smeared
with blood of the god.
And that’s why red stones
teach our childhood.
When we are children, the god
walks beside us
He touches our ear-rings
and necklace
He enters and hides in our shiny shoes
and the folds of our childish ribbon.

I must buy a flame-red dress and bed,
a red ring
and lamp.
There must come a time
when the mother’s time begins and ends

The blood that knows how to wait,
also knows how to be a stone.
To be in the world is pain –
this I have learned.

Red darkness
blue darkness
and the beginning,
the meaning of these must be
that they never abandon


Nilgun Marmara (1958-1987) An alumni of Kadikoy Maarif Koleji she graduated from the English Language and Literature Department at Bogazici University. A fervent admirer of Sylvia Plath, she committed suicide at the age of 29. Her fragile poetry wavers between dream and reality. Poetry collections: Daktiloya Cekilmis Siirler (Typewritten Poems/198, Metinler (Texts/199. Kirmizi-Kahverengi Defter (Red-Brown Notebook/1993) is compiled by Gulseli Inal from the poet´s notes and diary. She deserves another attempt for a better translation and I gave a try to one of her poems.

My bird and I are fast asleep
reflected in a mirror, our cage our bed
our visages reflecting that of one another
we sleep beneath the eternally falling snow
my bird and I.
A crimson ribbon binds us – my mate and I
indelibly together.
Destitution would delight in its severance.

In our mirror there´s naught beyond this bond...
This crimson tie between us -- my mate my bird and I...

Translation by Suat Karantay

My bird and I in a mirror
sleeping, our cage is our bed
our faces face to face partners
under an endless snow... sleeping
my bird and I
my mate and I tied with a crimson string
bonded to each other
Untied there is joy to poverty

In our mirror none but this only bond
My crimson jealous mate my bird and I

Jan 06 translation by MAM

[basliksiz], Kirmizi-Kahverengi Defter (1993 / ed. Gulseli Inal). Istanbul: Telos Yayincilik, p. 35.

Scorched by the winds
Turning a cold shoulder to the despondent dog
Woman writing poetry, taking her own life
Female passenger in the craft of Eros
Woman in bloom
Woman in motion
Woman in the garden
Woman at a table in the nightclub
Woman at the window
Woman pluralized
Woman cradling childhood in her lap
Light as a seagull’s feather
Like a desert lily
Business-minded woman
Arising from the foam
At the break of dawn
Tired of Prostitution






Edited (3/5/2009) by portokal

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