Friday, October 05, 2007

Kafka Viewmaster Orhan Veli Poetry Madness

If you, like me, have some of those old ViewMasters at home -- you know those things that take circular disks with little image slides all around the perimeter, usually showing images of Disney films and other children's animations, then this is for you. Vladimir creates, amongst other things, ViewMaster disks of Kafka snd Calvino. Way cool, in my estimation.


I've just come across the Turkish poet Orhan Veli Kanik (1914-1950) through Jordan Davis' translations on Gabriel Gudding's blog. You can hear some of the poems as translated by Davis here. and read an entire book of them here from a book of translations by Murat Nemet-Nejat

Here are two translations of the poem "My Tree." The first is by Jordan Davis:


If you weren't the only tree around
I probably wouldn't be quite as devoted to you.
But if you could play with us
That would be excellent.

I hope you don't conk out
Until after we move away from here.

in MY ORHAN VELI (Subpoetics Self-Publish or Perish, 2007)

The second is by Murat Nemet-Nejat:


In our neighborhood
If there were other trees
I would not love you so.
But if you knew
How to play hopscotch with me
I would love you much more.

My beautiful tree.
When you die
I hope we'll have moved
To another neighborhood.


There's a fantastic surprising simple quality to the poems by this poet. They are just slightly askew. Various ones remind me of Ron Padgett, David McFadden, or even some aspects of later W.S. Merwin. They have a light, wryly wise, sometimes melancholy wit and insight.

This one is a bit of Padgettry:


I was so stupid.
For years
I didn't understand
The place
Of mustard
In society;
``One can't
Without mustard.''

Abidin was saying
The same thing
The other day
To those
Who understood
Deeper things.

I know it isn't necessary,
But may God deprive no one
Of mustard.

(trans. by Murat Nemet-Nejat)

and I guess this one too--


I threw a pebble at the tree.
My pebble didn't fall.
Didn't fall.
The tree ate my pebble,
The tree ate my pebble.
I want my pebble.

I like the droll logic of this, and the unexpected ending:


I buy old clothes.
I buy old clothes and cut them into stars.
Music is the food of love.
I love music.

I write poetry.
I write poetry and buy old clothes.
I sell old clothes and buy music;
If I could also be a fish in a bottle of booze...

This little (and early) poem about the Holocaust gains power through its simplicity and simple language.


You're right.
The death of 10,000 people in Warsaw
Like a carnation
Red lips.

September, 1939.

Finally, the last stanza of this poem is the kind of thing that makes me love this poet and want to read more. Its simplicity, surprise, wit and depth.


All I do is this;
I paint the sky every morning
While you are asleep.
You get up and see it's blue.

The sea is ripped occasionally.
You don't know who sews it back.
I do.

I fool around from time to time too.
This is also my job.
I think of a head in my head.
I think of a stomach in my stomach.
I think of a foot in my foot.
I don't know what the hell to do.


Now I have to finish making the buttons for the first ever Hamilton, Ontario Orhan Veli Kanik fan club. It's always a wonder to stumble onto to a new writer and a whole other tradition.


Zachariah Wells said...

If he's write about mustard, then Saskatchewan is poised to become the next global superpower. And here I thought it was all the oil they have up there in the north!

Zachariah Wells said...

Oops, that should be "right." Of course, he's write about mustard, that's oblivious!