Saturday, June 5, 2010

Selected poems of Orhan Veli for The Firecracker Press to pick from

My friends at The Firecracker Press sent me a nice invite today.

I am trying to set up a reading series at The Firecracker Press where poets & authors read while we print a broadside of one of their poems. More details to come, but would you be interested in participating? 

Uh, yeah!  

I have poems I have written, as Firecracker would know; they printed my one chapbook, A heart I carved for a girl I knew. But I am much more passionate about my cotranslations, because it is far more interesting poetry than what I come up with on my own.

I have done cotranslations from the Italian of Roberto Giggliucci with my dear friend Leonard Barkan, a world-famous comparative literature scholar and art historian whose academic home is Princeton University, when he isn't parked in Rome or Berlin. The TriQuarterly published one of our translations of Roberto, "Easy poem about hotels"; the rest of our collection remains unpublished and uncollected.

I also have done cotranslations from the Turkish of Orhan Veli with my equally dear friend Defne Halman, a famous Turkish actor and the first VJ on Turkish television (the Martha Quinn of Istanbul). We have published some of our translations of the great Garip poet, here and there; but since we translated everything Orhan Veli ever wrote, there is plenty more to pick from.

So, today, I picked through it. I sent this batch of unpublished personal favorites to Firecracker. Let's see what they choose to print that broadside of. Saturday, August 21 is when I will be down at the print shop on Cherokee Street reading some of this stuff.


Translated from the Turkish
by Defne Halman and Chris King
However beautiful the roads may be
However cool the night
The body tires
The headache never gets tired
Even if I go into my house now
I can go out a little later
Since these clothes and shoes belong to me
And the streets belong to no one 



These lovely days destroyed me
On a day like this I quit my job
I got hooked on tobacco
On days like this
I fell in love on days like this
I forgot to take home bread and salt
On days like this
My obsession with writing poetry always recurred
Days like this destroyed me


(moro romantico)

If I cry
Will you hear
My voice
In lines of verse?
Can you touch my tears?

I never knew songs were so beautiful
And words so insufficient
Before falling into this trouble

There is a place, I know
Where it's possible to say everything
I come pretty close
I feel it
I can’t explain it


I'm sick and tired
Of dragging him around 
For years, at the tips of my toes
Let's live in this world a little bit
Him by himself
Me by myself


Was I also going to have thoughts like this?
Was I also going to be left sleepless?
Was I going to be silent like this?
Was I not even going to miss my favorite salad?
Is this the way I was going to be?


Yesterday I was really bored
All the way into the night
Two packs of cigarettes
Didn’t do a thing
I tried to write
It didn’t grab me
I played the violin for the first time in my life
I roamed around
I watched people playing backgammon
I sang a song in a mode all my own
I caught a matchbox full of flies
Goddamn it, in the end
I picked myself up
And here I came


She’s stretched out
Flopped there, all spread out
Her dress is hiked up a little
She’s lifted her arm
Her armpit appears
And with one hand she’s holding her breast
No evil in her, I know
None, none in me either, but ...
No way!
This is no way to lie down!


Come, my darling, come to me
Let me buy you silk stockings
Let me treat you to a cab
Let me take you to the music
Come, my gold toothed one
My dark-eyed, wavy-haired one
My little slut
My one with the cork heels
My rock & roller, come



The knife gash on my forehead
Is because of you
My tobacco tin
Is a souvenir from you
Your telegram says
“Even if both of your hands are in blood, come”
How can I forget you?
My lady of the night



We have seas, full of sun
We have trees, full of leaves
Morning and night
We go
Go and come back
Between our seas and our trees
In poverty



Some days, I’ll just pick up and go
Amid the smell of nets fresh from the sea
I go from island to island
In the wake of the shearwaters

There are worlds, you can’t even imagine
Flowers bloom with a bang
Smoke blasts from the soil

Look, the seagulls, those seagulls
A different urgency in every one of their feathers

Some days, I'm up to my neck in the blue
Some days, I'm up to my neck in the sun
Some days, just loony



This is my gig
I paint the sky every morning
While all of you are asleep
You'll wake up and see that it's blue

The sea will tear sometimes
You won't know who sews it
I sew it

Sometimes I'll just goof off
That's also my job
I'll think of a head on my head
I'll think of a belly on my belly
I'll think of a foot on my foot
I don't know what the hell to do



What didn’t we do for this country!
Some of us died
Some gave speeches



If you don’t hear the sound
Of nuts cracking open on branches
Just see what will become of you
If you don't hear the sound
Of the rain coming down
Just see what will happen
The ringing bell
The speaking person
If you don’t feel the smell
Of the seaweed
The lobster, the shrimp
The wind that blows from the sea ...



Before the day is born
You should set out
While the sea is pure white
The lust of holding the oars
The happiness of being useful
You'll set out
You'll set out with commotion of nets
Fish will welcome you
You'll be happy
As you shake the net
You'll hold the sea in your hands
Glittering scale by scale
When the souls of the seagulls
Are quiet on the graves of their rocks
Suddenly, all hell will break loose on the horizon
Mermaids? Birds? What do you think?
Maybe revels, parties, festivals, celebrations?
A bridal procession
Silver and gold thread for the bride's hair
Bridal veils, fanciful stuff?
What are you waiting for?
Throw yourself into the sea!
Don't worry if you’ve left someone behind
Can't you see there is freedom everywhere?
Be a sail
Be a rudder
Be a fish
Be water
Go as far as you can go and keep going



What was it, had she just come out of the sea?
Her hair, her lips smelled like the sea until morning
The rising and subsiding
Of her chest was like the sea

She was poor, I know
But come on, you can't talk about poverty all the time
Directly into my ear, gently
Gently, she sang songs of love

What had she seen, what had she learned, who knows
In her life spent throat to throat with the sea
Patching fishnets, throwing fishnets, gathering fishnets
Making fishing lines, collecting bait, cleaning boats ...
To evoke the prickly fish of the sea
Her hands touched my hands

That night I saw, I saw in her eyes
How beautiful, after all, the day
Is born upon the open sea
Her hair taught me waves
I rolled and rolled in dreams



You say if only the struggle would end
You say if only I didn't get hungry
You say if only I didn't get tired
You say if only I didn't need to pee
You say if only I didn't get sleepy

Why don't you say it: if only I were dead?



Going in the street
When I realize I'm smiling
To myself
I imagine people
Will think I’m crazy
And I smile




How beautiful
When a building along the road has been demolished
To see a new horizon


I envy the children
Who get lined up along the sidewalk
To watch the way the steamroller walks


Its voice reminds a friend of mine
Of motorboats
That pass on the sea


I wonder if looking at the broken paving stones
And dreaming of asphalt all lit up
Is reserved only for poets?


I love beautiful women
I love working women
But beautiful working women
I love even more


I’m shabby now
But once I pay my debts
Most likely 
I will have a new set of clothes
And most likely, on top of this
You still won’t love me
And Sunday nights
While passing through your neighborhood
Dressed to kill
Do you think that I will think of you
As much as I do now?


I could get angry
At the people I love
If loving had not taught me


Pretty girl, you
When I was little
In our gardens
The bird snare I strung
On the plum tree's highest branch 
The finch that hopped upon it
You are not as cute as that


I in my room
Overlooking the seashore
Without looking out the window at all
I know the rowboats passing outside
Go loaded with watermelons
The sea, as I used to do
Likes to make me mad
By moving its mirror 
On the ceiling of my room
The smell of seaweed 
And the fishing net poles
Set up on the shore
Remind the children living by the sea
Of nothing



The buds that are about to pop
Promise the good days
And a lady, outside the city
On the grass under the sun
Lying face down
Feels the spring
On her breast
And tummy



My love who doesn’t come to the fancy bistro
Never comes to the fish shack beer garden



There’s another person
Thank goodness
In the house
There's breathing
Thank goodness
Thank goodness


Orhan Veli portrait from Mizah & Cizgi.

Defne and I are supposed to publish our translations, Some Days Just Loony: The Collected Poems o Orhan Veli. We even have a nibble from a university press. But we are both lame at the business of publishing, and Defne is back in Istanbul and scarcely communicado. For now, you can download the text for free at that there link, so long as you don't publish it without permission.


J Woods said...

Hey--you forgot that Lumberyard published "Headache" and another of your cotranslations in an early issue!

Confluence City said...

Indeed - Lumberyard (a Firecracker Press project) has published someo f our Orhan Veli translations, as has 52nd City and no doubt other people I have forgotten!