Monday, December 3, 2007

Turkish Poets in Buffalo/Juvenilia/Sick

Another insanely busy week, which ended in my falling ill with the flu and missing the celebration honoring Alexis De Veaux and Jonathon Welch. I am still slightly under the weather, though feeling a bit stronger today.

The week began promisingly with a visit from four Turkish poets: Lalle Mülder, Güven Turan, Seyhan Erözçelik and Murat Nemet-Nejat. Murat-Nemet-Nejat, who lives in the NYC area, edited an anthology with Talisman called EDA: An Anthology of Contemporary Turkish Poetry, which appeared in 2004. An extended selection, plus additional essays on the work appears in the current issue of Jacket. I highly recommend you purchase the anthology, or at the very least, readthe new issue of Jacket for a healthy taste of the work.

The three visiting poets read during the afternoon on 11/27 at Buffalo State College and then again in the evening at Talking Leaves...Books. Seyhan read solely in Turkish, followed by Murat reading the translations in English. Lalle read all in English during the afternoon event, and then read in Turkish with Murat reading translations in the evening. Güven performed both readings in English, peppering the second one with a reading from the Turkish. All three are excellent poets (as is Murat, though he did not read his own work). Murat's translations are wonderful works in themselves.

Lalle Mülder read a long poem called "Virgin Mary Smoke," which is a kind of syncretic mystical poem that freely appropriates and mixes images, ideas, and concepts from Islam, Christianity and Judaism, with the Virgin Mary serving as the center through which they all combine.

Güven Turan read mostly from 101 and One Lines and One, a series of one line imagistic poems. Some of them, like this:

I am erasing the hoar on a plum, it breaks into storm.

amaze with the compactness of their imagery. You can read more of these at the new issue of Jacket.

Seyhan Erözçelik, the youngest of the three, stood out in terms of the tone of his work. Whereas Lalle's work seeks to delve deeper and deeper into the mystical heart of her images, and Güven's minimalist poems seek to strip away anything non-essential, Erözçelik's poems often blend complex rhythms with a gentle humor that I found very appealing. In particular, I liked a series called Rosestrikes, whose rhythmic character (thanks to amazing translations by Nemet-Nejat) reminded me of early Celan, especially Todesfuge. Some of these are also up at the Jacket feature.

We managed a quick trip to the falls in the afternoon. Unfortunately, it's off-season, so we could not get very close to the falls. It was also wet and very, very cold, but everyone seemed happy to get the chance to see them.

After the reading at Talking Leaves, a discussion broke out about work and poetry. The three male poets all work regular jobs in the business world. When asked about poets working in academia in Turkey, they said it was uncommon for them to do so unless they were trained in something other than writing. A good reminder that great poetry has no necessary connection to the academy.

Following their departure on Wednesday, Sarah Campbell organized a "Juvenilia" reading, at which writers stand up and read often embarrassing writings from their youth. About 15 people read at the event, myself included. it was lots of fun, though somewhat melancholy as it was also a goodbye to Sarah, who is moving on.

Thursday I spent groaning in bed with the flu, which continued through most of the weekend. Blech. I am getting better, though, just in time for another busy week -- Paul Hoover, Maxine Chernoff, and Ariel Dorfman are all reading this week. We'll see what I can get to. It's also time to look for an apartment, as it looks like the sale of our house will go through as planned. And next week I read in Detroit...etc. Enough of my yakking.

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