Turkish Voices, written during 1989/90, is initially based on the Second New Turkish poet Cemal Süreya’s first book of poetry, Üvercinka (Pigeon English), which he wrote during the 1950s, in his twenties. In this book, absolutely stunning erotic passages of uncanny psychological insight, where a nexus between pleasure and power is revealed through the lyric persona of a male seducer, are mixed with cute refrains or half-digested surrealist lines which blur the text, sentimentalizing that insight by turning the poems into general appeals for freedom, completely overlooking the victimization of the female persona, who never speaks.
A work of deconstructive translation, this book offers a reworking of Uvercinka, containing fragments from different poems in the book, sometimes ending in mid-sentence, isolated, spliced together, and sometimes alterated. Fragments from other Turkish poets have been added, splitting the lyric persona, opening up its unity; finally, poems written by the author himself earlier joined the text.
The result is a series of eighty-four fragments where any idea of ownership or originality or source — what poem, that is, comes from whom or where — disappears, is completely blurred. In other words, what starts with the ego and power-centered persona of the male seducer is dissolved, splintered, through a dialectic or critical confrontation with Süreya’s resistant text, into multiple points of view, often of a sufferer, a victim. What one ends up with is a multiplicity of voices, an erotic poem which becomes its own critique of power.
Murat Nemet-Nejat is a poet, translator from Turkish poetry, essayist and editor of Eda: An Anthology of Contemporary Turkish Poetry (Talisman, 2004). Murat Nemet-Nejat’s works include, among others, the poems The Bridge (Martin Brian & O’Keeffe, Ltd., 1977), “Fatima’s Winter” (Transfer 1, Fall/Winter 1988–89), “Heartbreak Weekend at Atlantic City” (Transfer 6, 1991), “Vocabularies of Space” (Talisman 11, 1993), “Steps” (Mirage, 2006), The Spiritual Life of Replicants (Talisman, 2011), Animals of Dawn (Talisman, 2016), Io’s Song (Chax, 2019); the essays “Vocabularies of Space” (Talisman, 1993), “The Peripheral Space of Photography” (Green Integer 76, 2003), “Translation and Style” (Talisman no. 6, 1991), “Questions of Accent” (The Exquisite Corpse 43, 1993), “A Godless Sufism: Ideas on 20th Century Turkish Poetry” (Talisman, 1995), “The Radical Feminism of Runa Bandyopadhyay’s Syntax,” the introduction to her book Nocturnal Whispers (2019), “Image as Ideas, Poetry as Film: Speculations and Poetic Acts (an Essay Film)” (Kaurab 59); and translations of the Turkish poets Orhan Veli, I, Orhan Veli (New York City: Hanging Loose Press, 1987), Ece Ayhan, A Blind C at Black and Orthodoxies (Los Angeles: Sun and Moon Press, 1997; reprint: Los Angeles: Green Integer, 2016), Seyhan Erozçelik (Greenfield: Talisman, 2010), and Birhan Keskin, Y’ol (New York: Spuyten Duyvil, 2019).
Nemet-Nejat’s work has been translated into Bengali, Turkish, Spanish, Romanian, and Vietnamese, among other languages. He is presently working on the poem “Camels and Weasels” and the translations of the Turkish poet Sami Baydar.
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