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Insights: Contemporary Poetry in Turkey

Posted in Autoren / poets, country portrait, Länderporträt, Metin Celal, our network partners by Heiko Strunk on 17. June 2011

by Metin Celal

The foundations of Turkish poetry are built upon Divan (Ottoman) Poetry and Folk Poetry. Divan Poetry is form driven by aruz-prosody and not easily understandable due to its mixed usage of Turkish, Arabic and Persian while Folk Poetry is content driven using syllabic meter and folkloric elements.

Turkish poetry grew from the conflicts and contrasts between these two approaches. Two major poets marked the beginning of contemporary Turkish poetry after the establishment of the Republic in 1923. Yahya Kemal, while providing important late examples of Divan Poetry, announced the onset of contemporary Turkish poetry with his use of language and image structures. Ahmet Haşim served a similar function by changing the usage of Divan Poetry’s forms, by his decisive search for innovation and by his introduction of new poetry from the West. Nâzım Hikmet and Necip Fazıl complement these two major poets, and contemporary Turkish poetry has since been developing in the footsteps of these four pioneers, always bearing traces of one or more of them.

The disengagement from Divan Literature, and the replacement of the Arabic Alphabet with the Latin Alphabet, changed the Turkish language and reintroduced syllabic meter to Turkish Poetry. Rising nationalism also established a “National Literature, New Language” movement. Cahit Sıtkı Tarancı, Ziya Osman Saba and Ahmet Muhip Dıranas, used syllabic meter to write poems according to their own unique styles. French Literature especially inspired the poets of the new generation who tried to overcome the limitations of syllabic poetry, limitations such as meter and rhyme, by enriching the poetry’s content. Nâzım Hikmet implemented the most important changes in this period. With his socialist approach, he reduced structure, brought in free verse and introduced new themes into Turkish poetry. Necip Fazıl, whose focus was on the spiritual and theindividual, brought a new voice to poetry by using syllabic meter with a modern edge. In time, Necip Fazıl moved towards a more mystical construct and pioneered a poetics driven by the religious, aesthetic and political roots of Islam.

One of the most important movements (more…)