Gülten Akin

Gülten Akin was born in 1933. She is Turkey’s most distinguished female poet and stands at the forefront of poets for whom poetry is synonymous with social responsibility. In a wide-ranging survey participated in by Turkish writers and publishers in 2008, she was selected as “the greatest living Turkish poet.” She studied Law at Ankara University and worked as a barrister in various parts of Anatolia. Her poems have been translated into English, German, Flemish, Danish, Italian, Bulgarian, Arabic, Polish, Spanish and Hebrew, and used in academic studies. Her major poetry collections include Rüzgâr Saati / Hour of the Wind, Kestim Kara Saçlarimi / I Cut My Black Black Hair, Sigda / In the Shallows, Kirmizi Karanfil / Red Carnation, Maras ‘in ve Ökkes ’in Destani /Epic of Maras and Ökkes, Agitlar ve Türküler / Elegies and Folk Songs, Ilahiler / Hymns, Sevda Kalicidir / Love Endures, Sonra Iste Yaslandim / It Was Then That I Aged, Sessiz Arka Bahçeler / Silent Back Yards,  and Uzak Bir Kiyida / On a Distant Shore. She won the Turkish Language Association Poetry Award in 1961 and 1971 and the Sedat Simavi Literature Award in 1992.

Saliha Paker (co-translator) is a literary translator and Professor of Translation Studies who retired in 2008 from Bo?aziçi University, but still teaches a course there in the PhD Program. She founded the Cunda International Workshop for Translators of Turkish Literature in 2006 under the sponsorship of the Turkish Ministry of Culture. Her translations include three novels by Latife Tekin, Berji Kristin Tales from the Garbage Hills (with Ruth Christie), Dear Shameless Death and Swords of Ice (with Mel Kenne), all published by Marion Boyars (1993, 2001, 2007), London/New York. She edited Ash Divan, Selected Poems of Enis Batur, brought out in 2006 by Talisman House, New Jersey, which will also be publishing What Have You Carried Over? Poems of 42 Days and Other Works of Gülten Akin, co-edited with Mel Kenne, in September 2013. 

Mel Kenne (co-translator) is a poet and translator who has lived in Istanbul since 1993. A founding member of the Cunda Workshop for Translators of Turkish Literature, he has translated much Turkish poetry and prose into English. Saliha Paker and he edited What Have You Carried Over: Poems of 42 Days and Other Works by Gülten Akin, and translated many of the poems in the collection, which will be published by Talisman House Publishers in September 2013. He and Paker also co-translated the novels Dear Shameless Death (Sevgili Arsiz Ölüm) and Swords of Ice (Buzdan Kiliçlar), by Turkish author Latife Tekin, which were  published in 2000 and 2007 respectively by Marion Boyers Publishers. Six collections of his poetry have been published, most recently Take (Muse-Pie Press 2011), and a bilingual collection in English and Turkish, Galata’dan / The View from Galata (Yapi Kredi Publishers 2010), translated by Ipek Seyalioglu.



Oh, no one’s got the time
to stop’n give thought to fine things

With broad brush-strokes they move along
Sketching homes kids graves onto the world
Some are obviously lost when a rhyme starts up
With one look they shut it all out
And the rhyme enters the night, as fine things do

Some pus in your breasts, some fish, some tears
Sea sea sea you turn into a giant
Evenings your fog creeps up the river-mouths
Raids our hazel-nuts
What to do with their blackening buds
We beg our children: go hungry for a while
We beg the tycoons
Please, one less “Hotel,” one secret marriage less to sketch
Please one less bank, a plea
From us to you and from you to those abroad

We send our wives out to get a manicure, to say
—sir, if you please—
We send our children out to beg
We’re off on our way, our beds entrusted to God
Motorized gypsies of the summer

Oh, no one’s got the time
to stop’n give thought to fine things
To return to the stream where we first bathed, our fathers’ homes
Passion for the earth, for what it’s being here
We plug our ears: money money money
We pull out the plugs: fight fight squabble
Someone may inquire: quarrel but why
An ever-grinding axe for our neighbor, a fist for our wife
Why the quarrel—we have no idea.

Then in our small town, that prison
We place our eraser before our eyes
With a shove we widen our days
We make room to give thought to our wives
To think about the bloom of the violet passing without us

Even if no one’s got the time
To stop’n give thought to fine things
Even if the little schoolteachers
Multiply their holidays
And in the name of whatever we hold sacred
Weave blindfolds for our eyes
What’s stored up and sketched will in time
Break into blossom as spring flowers

From across the stream over yonder
Some will whistle, we’ll sound it back.


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