Remembering the Master

Remembering the MasterIt’s exactly one year to the day since that seemingly unstoppable man of letters, Ilhan Berk, died in his beloved town of Bodrum. I was in Yemen when the news finally reached me on August 31. I’d been up in the mountains near Kawkaban with Zeeshan, firing Kalashnikovs at olive cans and taking a tour of the ghat farms south of Shibam. It was one of those disembodied Middle East days, when the intense summer heat stirs each living soul into a post-noon trance and everything levitates two feet off the ground. We came down with a crash in San’a when I opened my mail and read the news from Ilhan’s son.

So here we are, one year on. For me, it’s been a year filled with Ilhan Berk: his epic poetic trilogy, The Book of Things, is due from Salt any day now; the anthology Ikinci Yeni: The Turkish Avant-Garde, with a broad selection from his work, is coming from Shearsman in November; Inferno, a new book of diaries, journals, essays and poems, is penciled in for 2010.

A Leaf About to FallAnd here, in celebration of his life and work, in the garden of Translation House, I’m giving a short reading from my 2006 translation, A Leaf About to Fall. We’ve had a sprinkling of rain, followed by a firm, cool breeze waking the walnut tree. In the deep black beyond the reach of the few candles lighting my seat, I like to think there’s another ear, turning in the wet grass, hungry for that other song. It’s as good a place as any to find the master.

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