Tag Archives: letters

The Light in Hayriye

by Ömer Faruk Toprak

Ömer Faruk ToprakIt was a road I took morning and night, stretching down to the sea. In winter it got a little muddy but when spring came it looked clean to me. I guess the market traders washed it down with water. I knew all the faces of the fishermen and the young bloods selling fruit & vegetables. If I ever went past without saying hello I’d get no more than five steps when I’d hear them call out behind:

“Abi, don’t go without these fresh lettuces. I’ll cut out two of these hearts for you”.

Even when I wasn’t sure what to buy they’d choose something and thrust it into my hand. It was like there was some feeling that bound us. I didn’t look down on them and they never showed me any disrespect.

I suppose it was the beginning of April. I’d left work early and was walking around aimlessly. Continue reading


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Yellow Dog

By Ömer Faruk Toprak

Yellow Dog Crying by MagerlIn Edremit, on the north facing slopes of Mount Kaz, winter lasts seven months. On the western sides the weather is warmer, and for nine months brings to the people there a spring-like climate. At eight hundred meters the cold, cool air increases. The people of these parts, more especially the villagers and shepherds, know well the coldness, the ill-minded winds of this mountain, and they’re keen to sense them coming. In these winds the sheep are driven into hay barns for shelter. There are seven types of mountain grass, and you’d be surprised to see mountain flowers you’d never seen elsewhere. Continue reading

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Adrianne Marcus, poet & writer

Adrianne MarcusPoet and author Adrianne Marcus, a regular contributor to Near East Review and one of the poets I translated for my 2004 book Aradaki Ses, died early on September 9 after a long illness. Adrianne was 74. Born in Everett, Mass. on March 7, 1935, Adrianne grew up in Fayetteville, North Carolina, and graduated from San Francisco State University with degrees in Creative Writing.

Adrianne worked for The San Francisco Chronicle for many years as a food columnist. She also wrote two works of non-fiction, The Chocolate Bible and The Photojournalist: Mark & Leibovitz.

As a poet, Adrianne published over 400 poems, in such magazines as Atlantic Monthly, Paris Review, Descant, Poetry Ireland, and The Nation. A poetry pamphlet, Magritte’s Stone, was published in Ireland in 2000. A memorial celebration of her life and work was held at Temple Rodef Sholom, 170 N. San Pedro Road, San Rafael, CA 94901 at 11:00AM on Sunday, Sept. 13, 2009.

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Zafer Ekin Karabay


silently secretly morning light unfolds,
spilling out over rooftops: to the face
of an old man drinking coffee on a broken chair,
to the simit hidden beneath its seller’s knitted
cloth, to the little finger of a child’s gloved
hand and to the city’s newly moving traffic.

but to others it never extends: the hands
laying hold to nihilism, a few books and
rock music, to a fragmented revolt
and the in-between-me that it doesn’t see.
beside me: sounds, barely distinct — i must
have left my radio on — i look out onto
the world from the vacuum of an apartment:
john lennon leaning on a wall smiling still.

Zafer Ekin Karabay
Translated by George Messo

Zafer Ekin KarabayZafer Ekin Karabay was born in Kayseri, Turkey, in 1975. He was a graduate of Ankara University’s faculty of law and later taught at Eskisehir University. His poems, film reviews and essays were widely published. In 1999 he won the Yaşar Nabi Nayır Prize for young poets and received the Special Jury Award for the Arkadaş Z. Özger Poetry Prize in 2000. He committed suicide on 13 September, 2002, two and a half months before the publication of his first and only book, Şubatta Saklambaç (February Hide & Seek).

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Berk at Shadowtrain

ilhan berkFour new translations of Ilhan Berk can be read online, in the September/October issue of Shadowtrain.

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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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Translation House, Switzerland

panoramaI finally arrived two days ago at the magnificent Ǜbersetzerhaus Looren, situated near the Swiss hill village of Wernetshausen, east of Zurich. I’m here in this spectacular location to prepare the final manuscript of Ikinci Yeni: The Turkish Avant-Garde, due from Shearsman Books this November. And with that wonderful panorama (above) facing me everyday, the hard work is in turning away and keeping my eyes on the books. The garden is a riot of greens – and coming from Saudi Arabia, what a blast that is to the senses – peppered with vibrant yellows and purples, brilliant whites and pinks of wild flowers fringing the lawn. There is a small vegetable plot and a herb garden next to the house, and as the storms rolled in last night I sat out there under hazels getting slowly soaked in the rain and the scents of jasmine and thyme – the first rain I’ve seen for eight months.

I’m also here to work on a small book of poems by Zafer Ekin Karabay. Zafer was a remarkable young man and a gifted poet. We first met back in 1999, playing table-football in a café in Ankara. Next month, 13 September, sees the seventh anniversary of his death. He died, by his own hand, two and a half months before the release of his first book of poems, Şubatta Saklambaç.

So, Switzerland. There are three fresh peaches ripening on my desk. If the sun comes out (and I’m hoping it doesn’t – you can really miss clouds you know!), I’ll eat the first for Iftar. Allah kabul etsin. Before then, and while the sun is still a stranger to my fruit, I’m going out into the garden again…

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