February 23, 2023

Orhan Veli (Kanik) (Türkiye) (1914-1950)

Orhan Veli (Kanik) (Türkiye)



One of the original contributors to the Garip book, which served as the name ─ the "Strange" ─ for the generation of Turkish innovators including Meli Cevdet Anday and Oktay Ritay, Orhan Veli came to be one of the leading creators of modern Turkish poetry in the 1940s.

     His life was that of a man seemingly living at the edge. A strong drinker, Veli fell into a coma in 1939 after an automobile accident, diving with his friend Melih Cevdet. He survived. The next year he produced, with Anday and Ritay, the Garip book, which would make them famous.

     But eerily, in 1950 during one of his binges, he fell into a ditch, and lapsed again into a coma, which finally ended in his death.  

      Many of his poems, moreover, recount his numerous love affairs. But as translator Murat Nemet-Nejat points out, despite the personal of a romantic poet, Veli was in actuality a poet of the ordinary and daily life. Indeed, Veli's poetry is often quite simple, but is always imbued with a humor and an underlying spirit of self-irony.

       In the beginning Veli’s poetry was found to be so odd that he was criticized harshly by some well praised for his innovations by others. Eventually his poetry was increasingly understood and many readers developed a great admiration for his work. Sait Faik Abasıyanık called attention to this aspect of Veli's public standing identifying him as "a poet who was much scrutinized, at times mocked, at times embraced, then again rejected, to be once again acclaimed; who achieved both great fame and notoriety in his time."    

      Veli was educated in philosophy at the University of Istanbul, and then worked for the Turkish Post office and as a literary translator for the Ministry of Education. He also translated numerous French poets into Turkish, including Jules LaForgue and Jacques Prévert. His collected works were published in 1982.




Garip (Istanbul, 1941); Vazgeçemedigim (Istanbul, 1945); Destan Gibi (Istanbul, 1946); Karsi (Istanbul, 1949); Bütün Siirler (Istanbul, 1951); Bütün Siirler (Istanbul, 1987)




I am Listening to Istanbul, trans. by Talat Sait Halman (New York, 1971); I, Orhan Veli, trans. by Murat Nemet-Nejat (New York: Hanging Loose Press, 1989).



I, Orhan Veli


I, Orhan Veli

The famous author of the poem

"Süleyman Effendi, may he rest in peace,"

Heard that you are curious

About my private life.

Let me tell you:

First I am a man, that is,

I am not a circus animal, or anything like that.

I have a nose, an ear,

Though they are not shapely.

I live in a house,

I have a job.

Neither do I carry a cloud on my head

Nor a stamp of prophecy on my back.

Neither am I modest like King George of England

Nor aristocratic like the recent

Stable keeper of Celal Bayar.

I love spinach.

I am crazy about puffed cheese pastries.

I have no eyes

For material things,

Really not.

Oktay Rifat and Melih Cevdet

Are my best friends,

And I have a lover,

Very respectable.

I can not tell her name.

Let literary critics find it.

I also keep busy with unimportant things,

Only between projects,

How can I say,

Perhaps I have a thousand other habits,

But hwat is the point of listing them all.

They just resemble these.


Translated from the Turkish by Murat Nemet-Nejat





I threw a pebble at the tree.

My pebble didn't fall,

Didn't fall.

The tree at my pebble,

The tree ate my pebble.

I want my pebble.


Translated from the Turkish by Murat Nemet-Nejat



Edith Almera


Possibly, right now,

He's thinking

Of Edith Almera

By a lake near Brussels.


Edith Almera

Is the first fiddle

In a gypsy orchestra,

Very popular on the nightclub circuit.


Curtsying to

Her applauding admirers,

She smiles.


Nightclubs are beautiful;

A person may fall

In love

With girls playing first fiddle there.


Translated from the Turkish by Murat Nemet-Nejat




Birds Tell Lies


Do not listen, my coat, do not listen

To what the birds are telling you,

You are my confidante in life.


Do not listen, birds tell this lie

With every coming spring;

Do not listen, my coat, do not, ever!


Translated from the Turkish by Murat Nemet-Nejat





Who says

I've fallen for Süheylâ?

Who saw me, who

Kissing Eleni

On the sidewalk in the middle of the day?

And they say I took Melâhat

To alemdar,

Is that so?

I'll tell you about it later,

But whose knee did I squeeze on the streetcar?

Supposedly, I've developed a taste for the fleshpots of Galata.

I drink, get drunk,

Then take myself there.

Forget about all these, guys,

Forget, forget about them.

I know what I'm doing.


And what about me

Supposeldy putting Muallâ on a rowboat

And making her sing out loud, "My sould is yearning for you..."

In the middle of the harbor?


Translated from the Turkish by Murat Nemet-Nejat



The Song of Istanbul


In Istanbul, on the Bosphorus,

I am poor Orhan Veli;

I am the son of Veli

With indescribable sadness.

I am sitting by the shore of Rumeli,

I am sitting and singing a song:


"The marble hills of Istanbul,

Landing on my head, oh, landing are the sea gulls;

Hot, homesick tears fill

My eyes,

My Eda,

Full of airs, my Karma,

[the fountain salt

Of all my tears.


In the middle of Istanbul movie houses,

My mother won't hear of my exile;

Others kiss

And tell

And make love,

[but what's that to me"

My lover,

My fever,

[oh, my bubonic river."


In Istanbul, on the Bosphorus,

I am the stranger Orhan Veli,

The son of Veli

With indescribable sadness.


Translated from the Turkish by Murat Nemet-Nejat




How Beautiful It Is


How beautiful the color of tea


In the morning

In the fresh air.

How beautiful

The fresh air


How beautiful the young boy


How beautiful the tea



Translated from the Turkish by Murat Nemet-Nejat





"I, Orhan Veli," "Tree," "Edith Almera," "Birds Tell Lies," "Rumors," "The Song of Istanbul," and "How Beautiful It Is"

Reprinted from I, Orhan Veli, trans. by Murat Nemet-Nejat (New York: Hanging Loose Press, 1989). Copright ©1989 by Murat Nemet-Nejat. Reprinted by permission of Hanging Loose Press.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I think that I shall always love this poet best of all.