“Poetry is the common language of humanity”

ataol 350Prominent Turkish poet, author, translator, activist and columnist Ataol Behramoglu had his poems translated into Italian for the first time. “Non scordarti di amare”, published by Raffaelli Editore, is an anthology of Behramoğlu’s poems already published in Turkish and some other languages.

Behramoglu, who was arrested and sent to exile for his political views and activities after the 1980 coup-d’etat in Turkey, says “As a poet and an intellectual, it is out of the question for me to stay away from politics.”

Behramoglu, in an interview with Babelmed, says “Poetry is the common language of the humanity.”


- Your poems have been translated into many languages and published in various countries, the last of which is Italy. And you translate other poets’ works into Turkish. Do you think that the universal nature of poetry could help bring together people from different countries, breaking down the walls?

- When I was awarded with the International Lotus Prize for Literature by the Association of Asian and African Writers in 1982 during my time in jail under the case “Peace Association” (Barış Derneği), I wrote a text titled “Poetry is the common language of humanity” to be read at the awards ceremony in Alma Ata. And still today I think so. No matter which language it is written in, real poetry is the common language of humanity. I got to know this through my own experience and observations. As I have recently observed at the Venice Poetry Festival, I see that my poems affect the spectators when they are presented with a good translation in other countries.


- What kind of reciprocations do the themes you focus on in your poems have on the readers from different cultures and languages?

- People have almost the same pains, joys, sorrows, happinesses, yearnings, expectations, disappointments. If sentiments, issues, themes like these are expressed successfully, sincerely in a poem written in any language, they will have the same effect also in other languages as long as they are well translated. I have found the same sort of reciprocations for many of my poems in many countries, that I find in the readers of my country.


- You are a poet who is also politically active and write political commentaries for a newspaper (Cumhuriyet). What do you think about the current political situation in Turkey and the region around? 

- As a poet and an intellectual, it is out of the question for me to stay away from politics. However I am not a politician by profession. As for my opinion about the political situation in Turkey and the geographical region around, it is all too clear…

Turkey and the countries of the Middle East, the Caucasus, the Balkans and the Central Asia are grounds for measuring swords for the imperialist powers. Turkey has a particular significance and characteristics in this geographical region.

This country, whose population is made up mostly of Muslims, has realized the first enlightenment revolution of the 20th century. The countries that are the cradle of the Western enlightenment should see Turkey as a great success of the universal values of the enlightenment and protect it. What we witness currently, however, is the exact opposite of this. The major values of enlightenment such as laicism and freedom of thought are being corroded by a group of people that has seized political power. The West however, has still not seen and realized the consequences that will be harsh not only for Turkey but also for the region and all the world.


- Could the political irregularities and the disorder caused by them be nourishing for a poet? Or do the vital political problems deem poetry and literature a “luxury”?

- I’d like to answer this question with the name of one of my poems: “Everything is poetry…”

Poetry is vital.

Let’s look at our folk poetry. Many a great folk poets have come up throughout a period of hundreds of years. People have always expressed their emotions, worries, joys mostly and most plainly by poetry. This means that no matter what the political, social circumstances poetry will always exist, it will always be needed. Even if all forms of art might experience a loss of importance with time; poetry, as a way of a person’s challenging with the universe and the destiny, will always keep its role as a companion of fate for humanbeings.

//Ataol Behramoğlu at the presentation of his book “Non scordarti di amare” in Rome, May 15.  

 Övgü Pınar








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