After the horrendous damage of the earthquakes in Lebanon and Turkey, the folks at The Star had a few conversations in which it became extraordinarily clear that most of their associates know very little about Turkey as a nation, much less as a culture.
As it’s been awhile since we had a Free Thing at The Star, it seems like a good time to help paper some of the knowledge gaps about Turkish literature, starting with this book by Murat Nemet-Nejat.
Nemet-Nejat has been translating and editing poetry for decades. That editorial work serves him well in Turkish Voices. Turkish Voices is an exceptional project in which Nemet-Nejat reinterprets Cemal Süreya’s first book of poetry, Üvercinka, as a long erotic poem that breaks down to reveal not just one voice but several poetic voices. In fact, lines from other poets actually enter the text in fragments, and at points even replace whole stanzas, creating eighty-four quasi-original original poems that comprise the book.
While Süreya’s original chapbook is essentially a long poem about the relationship between male-female seduction and political power, Turkish Voices goes even further. By interrupting the text with other voices, the original text of Üvercinka begins to allow others, not just the male and the powerful, also to speak about the real meaning of seduction, not personally but socially.
Originally written in 1990, the book has been released now with a Creative Commons license — an honorable tribute to the process of sharing, quoting, cribbing, arguing, remixing, and rebuilding culture that is, in fact, the very point of the book itself.