• Free Verse In Turkish Poetic Tradition

  • Nâzım Hikmet's Efficacity

    "Even though, as a poet, Nâzım Hikmet's name was first heard in conjunction with that of the Syllabists, he fundamentally belonged to a conception of poetry entirely different from theirs. He defended his social and political views in his syllabic poems as had done Namık Kemal, Tevfik Fikret, Mehmet Akif, and Mehmet Emin. He was a revolutionary who wrote poems in order to provoke people against the occupying forces in an occupied land. His education in the Naval School certainly lead him to have a self-sacrificing personality which would make him not to refrain from risking everything if necessary. Had he indeed been sent to the front during the Independence War as had been his wish, rather than teach in Bolu, we would likely be commemorating today this enthusiastic young poet among our Independence War martyrs.
    "His way of thinking acquired different aspects as he examined closely the life conditions of the Turkish people and met with the pressures of religious reactionism during his years in Bolu.
    "He left Bolu for Moscow as a syllabist poet. On his return, especially in the second half of the 1920s, he had become qualified as a 'brand-new poet'. He was the leader of a new movement which was called 'free verse'.
    "Step lines and free rhyming made the impression that the novelty was in the external form. But the real novelty was in the content: he had gone beyond the conventional themes and topics of poetry and as a result of this, the language, the tone, rhythm and diction had changed.
    "This novelty, which at the time seemed a lot, was likely to destroy every aspect of convention and to replace Turkish poetric tradition. Free verse was a revolution but it found swift acceptance and Nâzım Hikmet received much praise. Why such radical novelty was so easily accepted is not a question generally considered. What was the secret of this success that broke down all resistance?
    Nâzım"It was clearly seen in his second book Jokond and SI-YA-U that Nâzım Hikmet did not want to break ties with traditional poetry and that he was searching for a synthesis. This 'brand-new poet' was not deemed odd although he was influenced both by the traditional Divan and the Folk poetry, and despite the fact that he re-interpreted the conventional conception of beauty.
    "Free verse, especially in the beginning, was characterised as the free use of the syllable structure of language. Let us provide examples to the step lines arranged with triple, quadruple and quintuple syllables: Bakmıyor/kayığa/sarılan/sulara; Bakmıyor/çatlayıp/yarılan/ sulara! (3). Değil bir kaç/değil beş on/otuz milyon/otuz milyon (4). Dalga bir dağdır/ Kayık bir geyik!/Dalga bir kuyu/Kayık bir kova!/Çıkıyor kayık/Iniyor kayık (5).
    "Nâzım Hikmet's employment of the beauty of the traditional poetry was not evident at all times. If we have to give an example, it is not expected from everyone to realise the similarity between Yahya Kemal's 'Bendim geçen ey sevgili sandalla denizden' and Nâzım's 'Hazer'de dost gezer, e...y!../düşman gezer!'.
    "The swift and easy acceptance of this novelty was the result of the fact that Nâzım Hikmet was connected to the transition of Turkish poetry and that he assimilated this tradition exceedingly well.
    "The Epic of Şeyh Bedreddin is a successful example of the unification of the influences coming from both Divan and Folk poetry. And particularly the part entitled 'Yağmur Çiseliyor' (It Is Raining), the work seems to indicate future developments in Turkish poetry.
    "In his prison years, starting by 1938, in order to save his poetry from becoming screaming propaganda, he searched for other ways and began writing lyrical poetry that was less loud. On the other hand, he also began to write Memleketimden İnsan Manzaraları (Human Landscapes) and gradually realised that this great work is a 'new kind of genre' which combines poetry, history, the novel, the short story, drama and the film script.
    "After 1950, he had to leave Turkey and it may be argued that, for a while, he multiplied his poems relying on his wit¾without any progress. He was as if transmitting his opinions and feelings with a tool he used with facility. But through the 1960s, in long-lined poems such as 'with hair that is straw yellow and eyelashes that are blue,' he embraced a new enthusiasm.
    "Nâzım Hikmet wrote in numerous different ways in various periods of his life and he never gave up experimenting or searching for new ways of understanding and always remained a revolutionary. He found constant rejuvenation and change though he never entirely forsook of the Turkish poetry tradition. Nâzım Hikmet's unchanged characteristic were his thoughts and his self-sacrificing personality which would make him not to refrain from risking everything if necessary." (From Memet Fuat's Özgünlük Avı [Pursuit of Originality], 18 January 1990)

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