Thursday, April 8, 2010

Ahmet Telli----Turkish Poet

Ahmet Telli, another poet who was arrested after the September 11th coup. Here is one of his poems that a friend recommended to me as her favorite....translated by me, of course. Like many Turkish poets, the poem is more for oral recitation than reading. I'm not sure the English quite comes across.

The Last Ballad of the Little Star

The stars of the Milky Way, like a herd of sheep loping after their shepherd, struggled up the slope of the sky. One of the smallest ones in the herd had long ago become tired of this silvery cycle, of the stillness and the silent trips round and round to the other side. She was restless. The scratchings of boredom were drawing blood in places. So one sky-day, she quietly slipped out of the herd. This little star was like a runaway leaving home in shorts with scraped knees. She jumped and leaped far, far from her herd. Then suddenly, she was hit with the emptiness and lonesomeness. She began to hum one of the universe's folk songs, one her friends had taught her. She worried about them: how could they stand it, her friends back in the galaxy, spinning their whole lives at the edge of the universe! She was stunned. She didn't want to believe that it was possible for stars to live without dreams. Then she forgot about all of this. About the past, about the future, about everything. The little star had this thought.
The universe is smaller than loneliness,
but it is dreams which are endless.

As she went on, time gathered on her foot like a snowflakes, and turned the exhilarating feeling of travel into something with a more a mystical flavor. The little star discovered hidden valleys. She wandered black holes. She boarded ships of fire and got off on the sea of magnetic winds. She had long been an expert at bringing trouble down upon her head. She was like a threat against herself. The bodies of asteroids were riddled with holes from encounters with meteor showers. They looked like lepers. "Death" said the little star, "I'm going to learn a way to disappear before you ruin me." Then she leaned into the wind whistling from a far away galaxy. Sliding between nebulae, she sang a folk song, a star song.

The universe is also smaller than hope.
But unhappiness seems bigger.

Once, while passing among dead stars, the little star thought of the herd she'd rejected. She thought of her friends, shining bright with joy. She thought of the wizards and soothsayers. If she returned she could lengthen her life and renew the light she was rapidly shedding to the void. But it didn't occur to her even once to return. She didn't mind spilling her light like diamond dust. She created her own environment and destroyed it. She would never be buried in the cemetery of dead stars. When it was necessary, she would turn to ash and scatter herself. Now, of course the Milky way had noticed hundreds of light years ago that the little star was lost. But it had never even considered going down that little goat path that had opened thousands of light years ago and looking for her. She had left to try the impossible.

The universe
Embraced by the eighth color
seems to have become a metaphor

As she passed through the regions of darkness, she was both as close to herself as a firefly and as faraway. Then, she dragged herself to the other end of the universe. Stars are the builders of dreams but now she felt that dreams must build something as well. There must be a utopia for stars, too. But she was being exhausted. She was quickly losing her light. Black holes might swallow her, dead planets could pull her into them. She wandered through dangers you hear only in old people's tales. But she didn't care about any of them. She was alive, mortal and fugitive. That was all.

The universe is also smaller than nothingness, it seems
Enough only to memorize life and death.

Then one light year later, she saw the Earth beneath the torn layers of the ozone. Humans looked like larvae squirming in mud. The little star stared in horror. And right at that moment, her foot was caught on a meteor and she began to slip across the sky. She fell. There was nothing in the universe to grab hold of. The time had come to say farewell to both her light and her self. Then she thought, "What does farewell mean?" It was utterly meaningless. Farewell was the shape of the feeling of falling to Earth. And she continued to slip across the sky. She exerted one final effort to avoid falling into the filth of the earth below, and was saved by a hair.

The universe
Is smaller than an ocean, it seems
On the edges are the sinking sailboats

And as she gave up her flight through the heavens, her last ballad went like this.

I am s falling

s c
t t
e r
i n

s m
f c
a a
l t
t e l
r n i n
g g


Anonymous said...

as Can Yucel says and as i repeat it like it is the only thing i know about this universe, "translation looks like women, the beatiful ones are not faithful and the faithful ones are not beatiful"
your woman i mean your translation is both faithful and beatiful, i guess..

Jeff Gibbs said...

It tries to be. Can Yucel is one smart dude. But I differ with him about women.