Bejan Matur was born of an Alevi Kurdish family on 14 September 1968 in the ancient Hittite city of Maraş in southeast Turkey. Her first school was in her own village; later she attended the long-established Lycée in the region’s most important cultural centre Gaziantep. These years were spent living with her sisters far from their parents. She studied Law at Ankara University, but has never practised. In her university years, she was published in several literary periodicals. Reviewers found her poetry “dark and mystic”. The shamanist poetry with its pagan perceptions, belonging to the past rather than the present, of her birthplace and the nature and life of her village, attracted much attention.
Her first book, Rüzgar Dolu Konaklar, published in 1996, unrelated to the contemporary mainstream of Turkish poets and poetry, won several literary prizes. Her second book, Tanrý Görmesin Harflerimi (1999) was warmly greeted. Two further books appeared at the same time in 2002, Ayýn BüyüttüÃ°ü Oðullar and Onun Çölünde, continuing the distinctive language and world of imagery special to herself and her poetry. In 2004, a selection of her poems was published by Arc Publications in England under the title In The Temple of a Patient God; the same book was published in German and French by PHI in Luxembourg in 2006 as Winddurchu-wehte Herren-hauser. How Abraham Abandoned Me (Arc Publications, April 2012) is a PBS Spring Recommended Translation.
Bejan is the founder of Diyabakir Culture and Art Foundation, which was established in 2008. Currently, she devotes all her time to writing poetry, and occasionally contributes to an internet journal and newspapers. She believes there is no frontier between poetry and life and travels the world like a long-term desert nomad. She stops by Istanbul, a city she sometimes lives in.
About the translators
Ruth Christie was born and educated in Scotland, and after graduating from the University of St. Andrews taught English for two years in Turkey, later studying Turkish language and literature at London University. For several years she taught English literature to American undergraduates resident in London. With Saliha Paker she translated a Turkish novel by Latife Tekin (Marion Boyars, 1993) and, in collaboration with Richard McKane, a selection of the poems of Oktay Rifat (Rockingham Press, 1993), and a major collection of Nâzim Hikmet’s poetry, again with Richard McKane, was published by Anvil Press in 2002. In 2004, In the Temple of a Patient God, her translations from the Turkish of Bejan Matur, was published by Arc in its ‘Visible Poets’ series.
Recent translations include a major collection Poems of Oktay Rifat with Richard McKane (Anvil Press, 2007), which was shortlisted for the 2011 Popescu poetry prize. In 2008, in collaboration with Selçuk Berilgen, a translation of Selçuk Altun’s novel Songs My Mother Never Taught Me was published by Telegram.
Selçuk Berilgen was born in Canada to Turkish parents. He was educated in Turkey and holds a BSc in Mechanical Engineering from Middle East Technical University, Ankara. Following graduation, he moved to Toronto, then to New York and, since 1994, has lived in London. He has worked extensively as a translator and interpreter for various organisations and, since 2003, as a group therapist for torture survivors. He holds an MA in Working with Groups from the Tavistock Institute, London.
His translations include Feyyaz Kayacan’s Shelter Stories (Rockingham, 2007) and Songs My Mother Never Taught Me by Selçuk Altun (Telegram, 2008), both with Ruth Christie; he has also collaborated with Christie on Bejan Matur’s book of poems and photographs Sea of Fate (Timas, 2010) and her poem ‘Infinity’s Watchman’ published in Reflections on Islamic Art (Qatar Museum, 2011).
PBS Spring Recommended Translation
“This collection covers the broad vision of mankind’s history with a story of an individual journey, in the course of which the poet explores the cosmic and the microcosm, the immensities of Time and Space, of becoming and Being. The poems came during a pilgrimage in south-eastern Anatolia. Matur has created a personalised iconography based on Islamic references and imagery, and she presenting complex ideas with a simplicity of expression that is perfectly mirrored in Ruth Christie’s translation.”
Ve Melekler Sağ Omuza Konar
Ve melekler sað omuza konar
Ve ejderha sol omuza
Ve melekler iner
Ve acýdan baþka bir þey yoktur
Ve bir aðaç
Acý meyvesiyle büyür.
Ve bir ses
Ve melekler masumiyeti anlatmaz olur.
Ve karanlýk kanatlar açýldýðýnda
Bir zeytin gölgesinde bekleyen adam
Kurumuþ kuyusundan zamanýn kelimeleri çeker.
Bir baþkasý gözlerine bakar kâinatýn.
Böylece uykusu süren ejderhanýn
Ve þefkatten yoksun anne
Ve melek aðlar
Sýrtýnda býçakla bir adam
Ve hedefi ölüm olan
Ýlerleyiþin ne olduðu sorulur.
Yüzünde meleðin bekleyiþ
Bir þey anlatmaktadýr.
Kelimelerin yalnýz bir aðaçta.
Karanlýk ve ölümle çevrili olduðunu doðumun
Sonsuz acý içinde
Kanatlarýn anneyi hatýrlatmadýðýný
Ve yetmediðini þefkatin.
Ve varacaðý yerin
Bir ilk ad olduðunu
Seçilmenin ve de.
Ve melek ilk adý tekrardan baþka
Ve ýþýktan önce
Bilgisi kelimelerin sorulur ondan.
Tanrý mýydý sebep diyecekler
Tanrý mýydý gerçekten?
Kýlýçlarýn parladýðý günbatýmýnda
Bak deðiþiyor harfler
Deðiþiyor senden konuþurken.
Senden konuþurken bir meleðin kanadýnýn
Ýncelmesi ve örtmesi üstümü.
Ve gözlerdeki öfke
Sana varlýk derken
Bir kanat kopuyor.
O acý meyveden yükselen his
Bana meleklerin inerken yüzünü göster
Bana meleklerin kanatlanýp karanlýðý indirmediði
O geceyi anlat.
Ýpeklerin ve renklerin
Gökyüzüne ulaþtýðý o yolculuðu
Senin ellerinde büyüyen sözleri ve de.
Elbette kaný anlat.
Haziran 2006. Parma
And Angels Perch on His Right Shoulder
And angels perch on his right shoulder
the dragon on the left
and angels descend
and there’s nothing but suffering
and a tree
grows with its bitter fruit.
And a voice
speaks of death
and the angels go mute describing innocence.
When the dark wings open
there’s no more memory.
The man waiting in the shade of an olive tree
draws words from the dried-up well of time.
Another looks in the eyes of the cosmos.
So the dragon still asleep
opens his wings
and no one knows
whom the mother void of pity
The angel weeps
his sign is weeping.
A man stabbed in the back
is familiar now.
And we ask the meaning
of a knife whose target is death,
of the knife’s direction
of the knife’s penetration.
The waiting in the angel’s face
is an explanation.
The growth of the fruit
only on that tree.
The angel tells
how birth is surrounded by darkness and death
How in endless pain
his wings fail to remind us of the mother
and how compassion is not enough.
How the place chosen
is the first name ever.
And except for repeating the first name
knows nothing of existence.
And before light
and secret windows
he is asked for the knowledge of words.
Was the source God? they will ask
Was it really God?
See how the letters change
at sunset when swords gleam
they change as they speak of you.
As they speak of you an angel’s wing grows thin
and covers me up.
And the angel fails to see
the anger in the eyes.
as I name you
a wing breaks off.
The emotion rising from that bitter fruit
clouds the heart.
Show me the face of angels descending
tell of the night
when angels took wing and failed to bring darkness,
and of the journey
when silks and colours
reached the sky
and of the words that grew in your hands.
Tell of the blood …
certainly tell of the blood.
June 2006, Parma
Başlangıcın azizi orada çağırmış kelimeleri
Güzellik orada bakmış sulara.
Ve orada insandan daha yüce bir şey varsa taştır.
Kemiklerin duası suları geçmiş çoktan
‘cenneti kaybettik biz’ diyor yaşlı adam
Cenneti kaybettik biz
Ve sulardan hiçbir şey anlamadık
Hiçbir şey anlamadık sulardan.
Ve hiçbir şey anlamadık sulardan
Kelimelerin doğumunu kutladık.
Ve bir kuyuda aksine dalmışken biri.
Saint of the Source
There the saint of the source summoned words.
There beauty looked in the waters.
And there if anything is greater than man it is stone.
Long ago the prayer of the bones crossed the waters
and the old man says, ‘We’ve lost heaven’.
It is we who lost heaven
and understood nothing from the waters
nothing at all.
When the old man said
we understood nothing from the waters
we blessed the birth of words.
As wings were fluttering
and someone was diving
into their own reflection in a well.
Azizin kelimelerini duyan şehir
Öyle bir karanlıkla halelenir ki,
Düşman kavimler şehre giremezler.
Ve İbrahim gölü.
Ve ay tanrıçasının asası
Başka yönleri gösterir.
Şeytan için sunaklar ve
Kurban kanıyla dolan
Ellerini göğsünde kavuşturduğunda
İstemekte midir bir şey?
Bir çivi yazısında işleyen insan değil zamandır.
Ben yürüdüm haccımı
Haccımı yürüdüm ben
Ayın ve güneşin ilk işaretler olduğu
Ve yılanların hakikatinden insanın
Yol aldığı bilgelik.
The city that hears the saint’s words
is haloed in such darkness
no enemy tribes can enter.
The city is blind.
A ring of darkness
and Abraham’s lake.
The moon goddess’s sceptre
shows other directions.
So on the hilltops
offerings to Satan and
filling with the blood of sacrifice
When a woman
folds her hands on her breast
what is she asking?
Is there something she wants?
It’s time, not man that writes in cuneiform.
My pilgrimage is over
I’ve made the journey
the knowledge came
that sun and moon were the first signs
and that humanity progressed
from the truth of snakes.
Senin hakikatin belirdi
Ve bir yüz halini aldý.
Çook önce bir avluda siyah harfler
Bir kadýndan daha kývrak bedeniyle harfler
Þimdi harflerden öncesi var.
Dilsiz olan harflerin
Cebrail’in kanatlarýnda taþýndýðý
Hiçbir þeyin deðiþmediði
Ve hayretin …
Yaratýlmýþ olmaktan hayret duyan ay ve güneþin
Taþlaþtýðý o yer
Bir canýn yanmasý gibi
Vazoda durmasý beyaz güllerin
Beyaz güllerin dün gece olanlarý bilmemesi
Ve acýnýn baðladýðý
Ve uzun bir yoldan sonra varýlan durak
Bir yüz olduðunda
Bakýþýn yarattýðý kalp deðildir artýk.
Kalbin bilgisidir bakýþýn yarattýðý.
Bizi var eden kimya
Ve nöronlarýn bildiðinden fazlasý.
Odur bakýþýn yarattýðý
Bir âþýðýn bakýþýnda esirgenen her þey
Your truth became visible
and took on a face.
Long ago black letters in a courtyard
more supple than a woman.
I was enchanted.
Now is the time before letters.
where mute letters
were borne on Gabriel’s wings,
was granted to us.
appeared to us
where nothing changed,
where creation and wonder
where the sun and moon that wonder
at their own creation
have turned to stone.
White roses in a vase
like a soul in pain
white roses not knowing what happened last night,
and when a long journey
bound by pain
comes to a halt
it becomes a face.
Now it’s not the heart that’s created by the look
it’s the beyond.
It’s knowledge of the heart the look creates.
More than the knowledge of neurons
it’s chemistry that makes us.
What the look creates
and everything spared in the lover’s look
Karanliktir Yolu Açan
Eğil bir kuyuya
Eğil ve Cebrail’in kanatlarını
Kelimeler nasıl var oluyor
Nasıl akıyor insan insana.
Belki de karanlıktır yolu açan.
Seninle benim armada
Bir bakıştır belki
Üzerinde Allah yazan bir yüzük
Aradığın Allah’tan önce aşktır
What Opens the Way is Darkness
Lean over a well
Lean over and feel Gabriel’s wings
and your lack of wings.
how words exist
how a human being flows into another.
Perhaps what opens the way is darkness.
Between you and me
perhaps it’s just a look
where you go
in your search
for a ring inscribed with Allah.
Perhaps before Allah it’s love that you seek
your search is for love.
Ayak izinde ceylanýn
Beliren su olsaydý
Kalbinde tartýlmýþtýr onun.
Ve sol omzundaki ýþýktan
Ýki nehir arasýný gölgelere açtýðýna
Ve güneþin yurdunu uzakta kurduðuna gore
Yorulmuþ belli ki
Tüm hayvanlar ve insan olmayan bahçe
Ve böylece Âdem belirdi
Ve Âdem’in beliriþi
Bir hayret eþliðinde.
Hayret bir yüz yapar
Ve alýr bizi Tanrý’nýn elinden
Ve adsýz þehirler beklerken
Ve yýkýlacaðý once
Sýrlar doðduklarý yerde
Daha da sýrlanýrken
Ýnsana açmazlar mucizeyi.
Ýnsana açýlacak olan
Alçalmýþ ve yükselmiþ.
Land of the Sun
If water appeared
in a gazelle’s footprint
there would be no balance.
Didn’t you see
in its heart it was judged
Its name was given
from the light
on its forehead
and left shoulder.
So it always was
for thousands of years.
from opening the land between two rivers
the sun made its home far away.
All animals and the garden void of humans
were tired of shadows.
And Adam appeared
He makes a face of wonder
and takes us from the garden,
from God’s hand.
the first valley
and nameless cities waiting,
which first to be built
which to be destroyed.
Secrets where they are born
don’t reveal the miracle to humans
remaining still more secret.
What will be open to humans
is a different flow
from other places.
too high or too low.
Ayný doðumu yaþayan iki ruh
Ayný karýnda bir tülle ayrýlan.
Aradýðýmýz bu dünyada
Bir penceredir belki de
Bir tülün dünyadan koruduðu bir oda.
Fýsýltýlar bana ulaþtý
Parmaklarýn geçti parmaklarýma.
Bir gölgeden fazlasý aramýzda
Tanýþmasý hiç bitmeyecek bir ruh.
Parmaklarým nasýl da hatýrlýyor
Sadece bakmakla var olmayan aþk
Karýþtý nehirde akmakta olan zaman.
Biz ne zaman büyüdük
Perde ne zaman çekildi aramýzdan
Ve ne zaman anladýn rüzgarýn
Solumakta olduðumuz ortak ruh olduðunu.
O odada daha fazla kalma
Surlarýn ve taþlarýn beklediði bir kalptir
Ona akacak olan.
Senin adým atýþýnda açýlan duvarlar
Senin yürüdüðün gece
Yoksulluðun bir kayýp olmadýðýný söyledi
Ve daðýldý tüller.
Ve ben ayný karýnda büyüdüðüm
Tüllerin görünür kýldýðý kardeþliðin
Daha fazlasýný isterdim.
Bizi büyütmeyen ev ve ülkeden
Çok daha fazlasýný beklerdim.
Kinship of Gauze
Twin souls living the same birth
parted by gauze in the same womb.
What we seek in this world
is a window and perhaps
a room protected from the world
by a curtain of gauze.
Whispers reached me.
Our hands clasped.
Between us more than a shadow
whose knowledge of the other never ends.
See my hands
how my fingers recall
love that was not, exists just by looking
and wrapped in gauze
time that flows in the river changed.
When did we grow?
When was the curtain between us withdrawn?
And when did you know that the wind
is a fellow soul when we breathe?
Don’t stay any longer in that room
In the end
what the walls and stones are waiting for
is a heart
which will breathe within
Walls opening at your footstep
revealed not the sky
but the wind.
The night you walked in, said
that poverty meant no loss
and the veils dispersed.
In the same womb where I grew
I saw eyes
a century of kinship appeared
kinship made visible by clasped hands
I wanted far more.
I had hoped for much more
from the home and the country
that failed to nurture us.
Nasýl geçiyorlarsa birbirlerine
Öylece geçiyorum ben de.
Vücudum bir þekil alýyor
Ne kadarý eski
Ne kadarý bu günden.
Bir kaplan gibi yürüdüðümü söylüyor o.
Halbuki içindeyim kaplanýn
Ýnsanýn insandan kaçýþý su gibi olur
Baþka bir toprakta izi kalan.
Üç kapýdan söz eden
Bolluktan ve kötülükten
Hangisi gelir bilinmez once
Sezgisi de insanýn yetmez olur.
You’ve seen the stones.
The way they fit together
is my way too.
My body takes on a shape
and I don’t understand
how much is old
how much is today’s.
He says I walk like a tiger
but I’m in the tiger,
in his way of looking,
and in his stripes.
A person’s flight from another is like water
that leaves a trace on different earth.
Speaking of the three gates
which came first,
abundance or evil
and human intuition is never enough.
from How Abraham Abandoned Me (Arc Publications).
Order How Abraham Abandoned Me.
Order In the Temple of a Patient God.
Sarah Hymas talks to Ruth Christie about her approach to translation.
Tags: Arc Publications How Abraham Abandoned Me, Bejan Matur Abraham's Lake, Bejan Matur And Angels Perch on His Right Shoulder, Bejan Matur How Abraham Abandoned Me, Bejan Matur Land of the Sun, Bejan Matur Saint of the Source, Bejan Matur What Opens the Way Is Darkness, Bejan Matur Your Truth, Ruth Christie translator, Selçuk Berilgen translator