August 6, 2011

Turgut Uyar

Turgut Uyar [Turkey]

Born in Ankara on August 4, 1927, Turgut Uyar began his adult life at the Konya Military School, were for several years he served as staff officer. During this period he began to write poetry, publishing Arz-i Hall in 1949. His first book already shows the influence of several poets of the Garip writers, including Orhan Veli. The poet is often described as belonging to the "second new" stage of the Garip group.

When he resigned his commission in 1958, Uyar went to work at the Cellulose and Paper Consortium in Ankara. During these years Uyar developed a friendship with Turkish poet Cemal Süreya.

Uyar's book, Tütünler Islak (Wet Tobacco), won the Seven Hills Prize for Poetry, a prestigious award in Turkey.

Uyar died in Istanbul in 1985.


Arz-ı Hal (1949); Türkiyem (1952-1963); Dünyanın En Güzel Arabistanı (1959); Tütünler Islak (1962); Her Pazartesi (1968); Divan (1970); Toplandılar (1974); Toplu Şiir (1981); Kayayı Delen İncir (1982); Dün Yok mu (1984); Büyük Saat (1984)


selections in Feyyaz Kayacan Fergar, ed. Modern Turkish Poetry (Ware, England: The Rockinham Press, 1992); selection in Murat Nemet-Nejat, ed. and trans., EDA: An Anthology of Contemporary Turkish Poetry (Jersey City, New Jersey: Talisman House, 2004); selections in George Messo, ed. and trans., İkinci Yeni: The Turkish Avant-Garde (unpublished)

For a selection of English language translations by Uyar, click below:

One Day, Early in the Morning…

Say I knock at the door one day, early morning,
Wake you from your sleep:
And yet, fog still lingers on the Golden Horn.
There’s the echo of ferry horns.
Twilight everywhere,
The bridge is still up.
Say I knock at the door early one morning…

My journey has been long
The train passed over iron bridges at night.
Villages in the middle of nowhere with five or ten houses.
Telegraph poles all along the route
Running to keep up with us.

Suppose I sang songs from the window,
Woke up, dozed off, woke up again.
My ticket, third class
Poorer than poor.
Say I couldn’t buy that meerschaum necklace
So I bought you a basket of apples instead…

Haydarpaşa open your arms we might have said
The ferry glittering at the pier
Air a little cold
Sea smelling of fish and tar
Say I crossed from the bridge to the other shore in a rowing boat,
Climbed our hill in a single breath…

Say I knock at the door early one morning,
- Who’s that? You’d ask in a sleepy voice.
Your hair ruffled, and heavy-eyed.
Who knows how beautiful you’d look my love,
If I knock at the door one morning,
Wake you from your sleep
And yet, fog still lingers on the Golden Horn.
There’s the squeal of factory whistles.

—Translated from the Turkish by George Messo

Evening Dream

Far off ships are passing now
My heart is scattered all over the decks.
Lightened nights, lute sounds, cheese and bread
I’ve neither ticket nor money nor friend
My heart tremors as I look around
- Turgut wake up, wake up poor one
This is Terme.

Lorries are passing over Terme bridge,
Workmen talk three here, five there
A night begins, half black, half red
I light my cigarette and return home…
- Sail on, ships, sail on
Give greetings to wherever you go
Some day far from all worries
I’ll come too…

—Translated from the Turkish by George Messo

Night with Deer

But there was nothing frightening there
Only everything was made of nylon
And when we died we died in thousands against the sun
But before we found the night with deer
We were all afraid like children.

You should all know the night with deer
In far off forests wild and green
Sun sinking under its weight at the asphalt’s end
Redeeming us all from time

First we dug into the earth
Then vanished
From gladiators and wild toothed beasts
From giant cities
Staying hidden and fighting
We saved the night with deer

Yes we were alone but we had hope
If we saw three houses we took it for a city
If we saw three pigeons Mexico came to mind
Evenings we loved to walk the streets
And we loved the way women waited for their husbands
Later we’d drink wine red or white
Whether we knew it or not it was because of the night with deer

—Translated from the Turkish by George Messo

English language translation copyright ©2011 by George Messo, reprinted from the unpublished manuscript, İkinci Yeni: The Turkish Avant-Garde

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