Excellent Afternoon at the Nâzım Hikmet Poetry Festival

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,


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

Thomas Lux on the Cusp of Poetry Month

Thomas Lux

Thomas Lux (photo © Dorothy Alexander)

Thomas Lux read at the Craft Center in the basement of Thompson Hall on the campus of North Carolina State University in Raleigh Wednesday night, and I was glad to be in attendance. He read mostly newer things, including “Dead Horse,” which can be read on the American Academy of Poets’ Poets.org Web site.

In preparation for Lux reading, I decided to memorize one of his poems–I like to memorize poems, and it had been a while since I added a new one to my repertoire, so his reading was a welcome push. I chose “Tarantulas on the Lifebuoy.”

Although he didn’t read “Tarantulas on the Lifebuoy” Wednesday, much of what he read hewed to the same aesthetic–a simplicity of style and voice, a quirky humor, and leaps that can be breathtaking in their unexpected aptness.

“Tarantulas on the Lifebuoy” begins:

For some semitropical reason
when the rains fall
relentless they fall

into swimming pools, these otherwise
bright and scary arachnids.

And ends:

that you are good,
that you love them,
that you would save them again.

How could you not love a poem that starts with rain and spiders and ends with salvation?

The Poetry Foundation has a recording of Lux reading “Tarantulas on the Lifebuoy,” as well as the full text. Give it a listen–not a bad way to kick off Poetry Month 2011.