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Election of the most beautiful poem from Turkish literature

Studio B - Centrale Bibliotheek Den Haag, Spui 68, 1e etage
Toegang: € 10,- inclusief Turkse hapjes. Voor leden van Bibliotheek Den Haag. CJP, studenten, klanten met Paagman aankoopbon, Ooievaarspas: € 6,-.

While in Turkey the local elections are being held, we elected the most beautiful poem from Turkish literature. In the Central Library in The Hague, seven prominent Dutch/Turkish writers, journalists, artists and politicians presented their favourite poem. The audience was invited to add their favourites to the list. At the end of the evening we counted the votes of the audience for the best Turkish poem. Winner was 'On Living' by Nazim Hikmet. Watch the video registration here.

The evening was Dutch spoken. Poems were read in Turkish, with simultaneous projections of Dutch translations. All poems were chosen from two bilingual anthologies: Modern Turkish Poetry and Osman Poetry by Sytske Sötemann a.o..

With moderator Tuncay Çinibulak, and Kazim Cümert (writer), Nurnaz Deniz (writer), Ibrahim Eroglu (writer), Meltem Halaceli (writer, performer and Arabist), Fatma Koser Kaya (alderman for the municipality of Wassenaar), Froukje Santing (journalist, researcher and former correspondent in Turkey for NRC Handelsblad newspaper).
Music by Aynur Kahraman (voice), Veli Bahşi (saz) en Sedat Varhan (guitar).
Bookselling in the venue by Paagman bookshop.

An evening produced by Writers Unlimited The Series, with Jurgen Maas Publishing House. Programme made by Judith Uyterlinde (Writers Unlimited) with Erhan Gürer, Tuncay Çinibulak and Sytske Sötemann.

The winning poem:

On Living
(Yaşamaya Dair)
Nâzim Hikmet (1901-1963)

Living is no joke,
you must live with great seriousness
like a squirrel for example,
I mean expecting nothing except and beyond living,
I mean living must be your whole occupation.

You must take living seriously,
I mean to such an extent that,
for example your arms are tied from your back, your back is on the wall,
or in a laboratory with your white shirt, with your huge eye glasses,
you must be able to die for people,
even for people you have never seen,
although nobody forced you to do this,
although you know that
living is the most real, most beautiful thing.

I mean you must take living so seriously that,
even when you are seventy, you must plant olive trees,
not because you think they will be left to your children,
because you don't believe in death although you are afraid of it
because, I mean, life weighs heavier.


Suppose we're very sick, in need of surgery,
I mean, there is the possibility that
we will never get up from the white table.
although it is impossible not to feel the grief of passing away somewhat too soon
we will still laugh at the funny joke being told,
we will look out of the window to see if it's raining,
or we will wait impatiently
for the latest news from agencies.

Suppose, for something worth fighting for,
suppose we are on the battlefield.
Over there, in the first attack, on the first day
we may fall on the ground on our face.
We will know this with a somewhat strange grudge,
but we will still wonder like crazy
the result of the war that will possibly last for years.

Suppose we are in the jail,
age is close to fifty,
supose there are still eighteen years until the iron door will open.
Still, we will live with the outer world,
with the people, animals, fights and winds
I mean, with the outer world beyond the walls.

I mean, however and wherever we are
we must live as if there is no death...


This earth will cool down,
a star among all the stars,
one of the tiniest,
I mean a grain of glitter in the blue velvet,
I mean this huge world of ours.

This earth will cool down one day,
not even like a pile of ice
or like a dead cloud,
it will roll like an empty walnut
in the pure endless darkness.

You must feel the pain of this now,
You must feel the grief right now.
You must love this world so much
to be able to say "I lived"...

Second was the poem İstanbul'u Dinliyorum (I listen to Istanbul) van Orhan Veli Kanık, followed by Cahit Sitki Taranci (Poem on Thirty-five Years) by Otuz Beş Yaş Şiiri. The other nominated poemms were Vasiyet (The last will) by Can Yücel, Gazel I by Pir Sultan Abdal's, Ahmet Haşims Parıltı, Var (There is) by Cemal Süreyya, Gazel by Yunus Emre and Hayal Şehir