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Haydar Ergulen: Pomegranate Garden.

Haydar Ergulen

Pomegranate Garden

Trans. Mel Kenne, Saliha Paker, Caroline Stockford, et al. Cardigan, UK. Parthian Books. 2019. 115 pages.

HAYDAR ERGULEN, born in 1956, is from a stripe of contemporary living poets who have deftly streamed their peculiar national consciousness to the level of global literature (see WLT, March 2018, 20). Turkey, famous for raising Nazim Hikmet to world readership, is rich soil for new poetics.

Pomegranate Garden is an achievement in translation as much as it is an important contribution to international poetry. Ten years in the making--and against the political irascibility of Turkey's censorial culture--thirteen translators collaborated on Ergulen's first book in English. In 2006 the project to translate Ergulen into English began at the Cunda International Workshop for Translators of Turkish Literature. With twenty-one books of poetry published in Turkey, Ergulen was ideal as a well-rounded academic in a long line of eccentric Turkish poets.

As one of the translators, Saliha Parker writes in her foreword to Pomegranate Garden: "At the core of Ergulen's work is the pervasive sense of poetry-writing as an inseparable part of life. ... Poetry, goodness and love is indispensable to the poet as a human being." Parker is eminent in Istanbul as a professor of translation studies at Bogaziqi University. She worked with twelve other translators, including Mel Kenne, a previous collaborator on the magical realism of Turkish novelist Latife Tekin.

Ergulen has a broad poetic range. Pomegranate Garden features works from 1982 to 2019. Pomegranate Garden delights in prose poetry, symbolism, free verse, narrative, premodern classicism, and the occasional mystic spiritual. But arguably, Ergiilen best succeeds at what Parker notes as his "down-to-earth concerns of humanity itself." In his poem "Borrowed Like Sorrow" (2005), he writes, "Mornings are tough / much more so than poetry." His quotidian commentary becomes profound in his elegy to the Armenian journalist Hrant Dink, written the year he was assassinated. "In truth we are neither Turks, nor Kurds, nor Armenians, / ours such a 'father,' Hrant, we are all orphans," Ergulen writes in "Gazel of Orphans" (2007).

He is unabashedly joyful about his work, in an autobiographical way that lends itself to ecstatic, performative poetry. "I love a bit of Haydar and a bit of Ergulen poetry," he wrote in his poem "I Could Never Be an Evening!" (2011). In such poems, and throughout Pomegranate Garden, there are references to other famous Turkish poets, like Attila ilhan, Cemal Sureya, and Oktay Rifat. He does not mention them out of competitive spite, as is common among poets in Turkey, but in solidarity. Ergulen celebrates poetic universality, as an essential human activity for all. "[T]he world is poetry's garden too," he writes in his long poem "On Things That Are Falling Asleep" (2011). It is an apt metaphor for the world as an open pomegranate of countless poems.

Matt A. Hanson

Istanbul, Turkey

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Author:Hanson, Matt A.
Publication:World Literature Today
Article Type:Book review
Date:Jan 1, 2020
Words:594
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