Letters & Sounds

Letters & SoundsHere is the cover of my new translation of Ilhan Berk’s Letters & Sounds, due out this summer from Red Hand Books. You can read a short blurb and pre-order a copy – if the mood takes you – from the RHB website at www.rhbks.com This is my fourth book-length translation of Berk’s extraordinary poems. A Leaf About to Fall came out with Salt in 2006 and made the shortlist for the 2007 Popescu European Poetry Translation Prize. In 2008 Shearsman published Madrigals, followed in 2009 by my anthology (including work by Ilhan Berk), Ikinci Yeni: The Turkish Avant-Garde, which was also shortlisted for the Popescu Prize in 2011. Again in 2009, Salt published The Book of Things, Berk’s epic poetic trilogy of Things That Are, Things That Aren’t, Long Live Numbers, and House. Berk’s new book, Letters & Sounds, features a stunning cover painting by the man himself.

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Filed under ilhan Berk, Turkish Poetry, Poetry of the Middle East, World Literature

Gonca Özmen in Shearsman 100

Shearsman 99/100Shearsman Magazine’s next double issue will be its 100th. This issue contains poetry by Gabrielle Alioth, Martin Anderson, James Bell, Linda Black, Rosie Breese, Geraldine Clarkson, Ken Cockburn & Alec Finlay, Claire Crowther, Makyla Curtis, Harry Guest, Gary Hotham, David Kennedy, Peter Larkin, Mary Leader, Yann Lovelock, Becka Mara McKay, Christopher Middleton, Helen Moore, Sonia Overall, Simon Perchik, Peter Riley, Alexandra Sashe, Hilda Sheehan & translations of Gastón Baquero by Peter Boyle, of Ivano Fermini by Ian Seed, and of Gonca Özmen by George Messo.

For more info & to order your copy, go to the newly designed Shearsman website here.

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Filed under Gonca Özmen, Poetry of the Middle East, Sufism, Turkish Poetry, World Literature

Muharrem Erbey

Muharrem ErbeyThe trial of human rights lawyer, writer and PEN Turkey member Muharrem Erbey is set to resume on 3 February 2014, after the trial against him and 80 other defendants descended into chaos during a 13 January 2014 hearing. PEN International is reiterating its calls for his immediate and unconditional release along with all others who are imprisoned solely for peacefully expressing their views. Read more by going to PEN International

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Filed under Censorship, Political discussion


Turkish Poetry Today 2014OUT NOW! Turkish Poetry Today 2014, with stunning poetry by Güven Turan, Asaf Hâlet Çelebi, Melih Cevdet Anday, Lâle Müldür, Sami Baydar, and Bedri Rahmi Eyuboğlu. Among the translators: Ruth Christie, Murat Nemet-Nejat, Mevlüt Ceylan, and Clifford Endres. A one-of-a-kind bilingual journal of modern and contemporary Turkish poetry edited annually by George Messo, Şenol Bezci, T. Kenny Fountain, and Fahri Öz. Order your copy now, from over 100 online bookstores worldwide.

See more Red Hand Books at rhbks.com

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Filed under Poetry of the Middle East, Travels, Turkish Poetry, World Literature

George Messo and his Authors

George Messo[1]Here is a very short interview with me talking about translation on the Authors & Translators blog. Click the link for more.

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Filed under Gonca Özmen, ilhan Berk, Orhan Veli, Poetry of the Middle East, Turkish Poetry, World Literature



…sentences began with Syrian merchants.
Much later I opened a window facing the river.
A wounded woodcock came in.

I woke to the sounds of rough Latin.


We fell from the middle of a book, medium-sized sentences in search of our place, in a city we didn’t know (for the city’s name was nowhere to be seen) all through the night we wandered. It looked like London, but it wasn’t, that’s for sure; how could we be so sure? Nowhere did the Thames bridges suddenly appear; no Oxford Street, no Hyde Park; it looked like Istanbul but it wasn’t Istanbul; it could have been Venice, Amsterdam, canals everywhere, water, everything living on water, but it wasn’t; maybe Baghdad, Delhi, Peking; the three of us kept our eyes to the floor and didn’t speak; but fireflies, birds, playing cards, ants, suspension bridges, Carthage – yes, Carthage – dinosaurs, dogs, water ways, sewers, water flies and bandages all caught around our ankles and kept stopping us and still we couldn’t find our place on pages.
Maybe our existence was prescribed.
We were cast off.


We were in a Palace of Delights, then moved to a House of Dotage.


I’d undress you.
Your feathery nudity would hit a cloud and stop.
(I couldn’t reach out.)


O word transformers!
You stopped giving news from above.


Sentences are being destroyed…

The world belongs
To ovals and circles!

from The Book of Things (2009), translated by George Messo

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Filed under ilhan Berk, Poetry of the Middle East, Turkish Poetry, World Literature


From out-
side it looks as if it inscribes a circle but when time comes to close back in from whence it came suddenly it retracts both ends of the line and darts inside.
A bungalow.
Shape of shapes.
You see it resembles nothing other than itself.
But if we must compare it to something, then let’s say a restless water drop.
(Armoured, solid, luminous)
In a shell as thin as a membrane and so strong, transparent
A spiral
When you touch its shell with your forefinger:
- Ping!
you’ll hear a sound. Or
— Crack!
when it’s broken.
When you take it and look at it in your hand you’ll see it creates a spiral bandage which wraps its beautiful shell like a ball.
(Fast growing and discarded.)

from The Book of Things (2009), translated by George Messo

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Filed under ilhan Berk, Poetry of the Middle East, Turkish Poetry, World Literature