Tag Archives: Travel

Questions at Rize Fort


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Filed under Art, Sufism, World Literature

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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