Excellent Afternoon at the Nâzım Hikmet Poetry Festival

by Celisa Steele on April 18, 2011

Nâzım Hikmet Poetry Festival

Nâzım Hikmet Poetry Festival

Yesterday I attended the third annual Nâzım Hikmet Poetry Festival. It was a wonderful afternoon and evening of poetry, Turkish music, Turkish food, and comraderie. The event showed that North Carolina poetry is thriving–and being enriched by poetry from beyond its borders.

I attended last year for the first time, as one of ten winners in the poetry competition (for my poem “How Language Is Lost,” which has become the title poem of my first chapbook due out next month from Emrys Press). I had such a wonderful time last year, and Mehmet Öztürk, Buket Aydemir, Birgül Tuzlalı, and the other organizers do such a wonderful job that I couldn’t miss this year.

Highlights for me from the festival include:

  • Learning more about contemporary Turkish poetry and hearing some fabulous examples, particularly the concept of eda, from Murat Memet-Nejat, editor of Eda: An Anthology of Modern Turkish Poetry
  • Getting absolutely energized by the work of Kane Smego, CJ Suitt, and Jake Jacoby, three Sacrificial Poets–my first taste of slam poetry, I’m chagrinned to admit
  • Beautiful Turkish music in original arrangements performed by the Serami/Aydemir/Öztürk trio (guitar, violin, and cello)
  • Readings by Dorianne Laux and John Balaban

I’ll conclude with the Hikmet poem that opened yesterday’s festival. It appears in Poems of Nâzım Hikmet, translated by Randy Blasing and Mutlu Konuk. (Mutlu Konuk was the featured speaker at last year’s Nâzım Hikmet Poetry Festival.)

 

The Cucumber

The snow is knee-deep in the courtyard
and still coming down hard:
it hasn’t let up all morning.
We’re in the kitchen.
On the table, on the oilcloth, spring–
on the table there’s a very tender young cucumber,

pebbly and fresh as a daisy.

We’re sitting around the table staring at it.
It softly lights up our faces,
and the very air smells fresh.
We’re sitting around the table staring at it,
amazed

thoughtful
optimistic.

We’re as if in a dream.
On the table, on the oilcloth, hope–
on the table, beautiful days,
a cloud seeded with a green sun,
an emerald crowd impatient and on its way,
loves blooming openly–
on the table, there on the oilcloth, a very tender young cucumber,

pebbly and fresh as a daisy.

The snow is knee-deep in the courtyard
and coming down hard.
It hasn’t let up all morning.

–Nâzım Hikmet

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