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This poem is taken from PN Review 109, Volume 22 Number 5, May - June 1996.

Three Poems (translated from Turkish by Christopher Middleton) Oktay Rifat

Translated by Christopher Middleton
Oktay Rifat, 1914-88, was first associated in 1941 with Orhan Veli and the 'Garip' group of younger poets in Istanbul. Rejecting the stereotypically florid rhetoric burdening Turkish poems at the time, they favoured a light touch, a lyricism direct and tenzperate, self-irony and worldly wit: they were the first Turkish 'lnodemists' ('garip' means 'strange'). Rifat's middle and later work, no less fantastic, vigorous, and varied than that of his Greek contemporary Yannis Ritsos, with whom he is still compared, includes serene and luminous pastorals, as well as poems for and about children. The six texts here translated come from three of his books: Yaşayip Ölmek Aşk, Çobanil Şiirler, and Aşik Merdeveni. For other translations, see Ruth Christie and Richard McKane, Voices of Memory: Selected Poems of Oktay Rifat (Rockingham Press, 1993).


In a Boat
That sky, that sea, captain, look at them,
Heavens above, the water must be like a woman,
Manika herself bestows no such blessing as this,
You could forgive a man for murder because of it.
Islands to the right, fish trap to the left of us,
I was rowing, Mehmet facing me,
Blue must have gone to my head.
Mehmet, I said, now for it,
Set the fuse, in with the dynamite,
Blast them up, the black-eyes, bream, the mackerel.

A day like this, I'll not forget it,
On the island, Christ's Hill,
Sea before me smooth as a dinner plate,
Sedef, Medef, Maden Islands,
...


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