July 8th to 15th, 2017
Haydar Ergülen (Turkey, 1956)
Haydar Ergülen. Turkish poet and essayist, he was born in Eskişehir in 1956. The winner of multiple awards, his most recent book is Vefa Bazen Unutmaktır. Among the most prominent poets of his generation, his work is only beginning to appear in English. He frequently reads and lectures throughout Turkey and makes his home in the Cihangir neighborhood of Istanbul with his wife and daughter.
Derick Mattern’s translations of Haydar Ergülen’s work have appeared or are forthcoming in Guernica, Modern Poetry in Translation, Gulf Coast, and Copper Nickel. He holds an MFA in poetry from the University of Wisconsin, Madison. Winner of the British Centre for Literary Translation’s Young Translator Prize in 2012, he lived in Istanbul from 2008 to 2013.
The first and last poems of this selection come from Zarf, a collection of poems that explores grief and friendship, both the private and the politically charged. “Brothers of Ash”, for example, is a lament for those killed by a mob at the Madımak Hotel in 1993, most of whom were Alevi intellectuals. Ergülen is active in the Alevi community and frequently addresses questions of intellectual freedom and religious engagement. The three middle poems, all ghazals, come from one of Ergülen’s most popular collections, Üzgün Kediler Gazeli. In this book, Ergülen experiments across a wide range of forms from multiple traditions. While the ghazal remains popular in Turkey among folk poets, few poets of prominence or caliber have embraced it, preferring Western forms and influences. Ergülen uses the ghazal to address relationships both domestic and mythic.
Personally I find the ghazals the most interesting challenge to translate. A poet myself, I value the relationship of form to content and I’m reluctant to translate meaning-for-meaning if it means losing the form. At the same time I resist translations that rewrite in order to preserve rigid form. My strategy is to keep the meaning as close to the original as I can and then add elements of the form back in. Ergülen wields the ghazal fairly loosely — at times merely rhyming couplets or elements of repetition — and I’ve availed myself to the same resources. I’ve often made up for loss of rhyme with increased repetition, for example. Thus while I might not choose the exact element Ergülen chooses or I might leave out this one or that one, we’re drawing from the same pool of structure and sound.
Ergülen’s work makes full use of the techniques developed by the Second New poets, a generation before him. This means minimal punctuation and line breaks that lend themselves to multiple meanings and interpretations. I’ve worked to retain both, but where ambiguity in English veers too close to obscurity I’ve opted for clarity even at the loss of a potential reading.
Published at May 27th, 2017