||I stand in the advancing light,
my hands hungry, the world beautiful.
Nazim Hikmet (1902, Salonica - June 3, 1963, Moscow)
My eyes can’t get enough of the trees–
they’re so hopeful, so green.
A sunny road runs through the mulberries,
I’m at the window of the prison infirmary.
I can’t smell the medicines–
carnations must be blooming nearby.
It’s this way:
being captured is beside the point,
the point is not to surrender.
Trans. by Randy Blasing and Mutlu Konuk (1993)
NAZIM HIKMET, popularly known and critically acclaimed in Turkey as the first and foremost modern Turkish poet, is known around the world as one of the greatest international poets of the twentieth century, and his poetry has been translated into more than fifty languages. Born in 1902 in Salonika, where his father was in the foreign service, Hikmet grew up in Istanbul. His mother was an artist, and his pasha grandfather wrote poetry; through their circle of friends Hikmet was introduced to poetry early; publishing first poems at seventeen. He attended the Turkish naval academy, but during the Allied occupation of Istanbul following the First World War, he left to teach in eastern Turkey. In 1922, after a brief first marriage ended in annulment, he crossed the border and made his way to Moscow, attracted by the Russian Revolution and its promise of social justice. . . . [click here to read more about his life from the introduction to his selected works, edited by Blasing and Konuk.]