• Free Verse In Turkish Poetic Tradition

  • Nâzım Hikmet's Efficacity

    "Nâzım Hikmet is the one who performed the most impressive formal revolution in Turkish poetry.
    "Of course, it was also an influential novelty to accept poetry as an instrument of political struggle and to argue this explicitly in innumerable works. But before Nâzım Hikmet, a number of famous poets such as Namık Kemal, Tevfik Fikret and Mehmet Akif also wrote poems directly elaborating on political, social or daily issues. The difference between Nâzım Hikmet and the others was the fact that he was a socialist.
    "The newness that had been realised in the form of poetry, lead to a radical change in Turkish poetry as a whole.

    "In the beginning of the 1920s, Turkish poetry seemed to be withdrawing in its own shell. The most popular poets were Yahya Kemal and Ahmet Haşim. Syllabists, passing from aruz to the syllabic meter, shared the honour of foregrounding the 'national meter'. There was nobody among the Seven Torchers who was accepted as a young talent who dealt with social matters. And even if there had been such a figure, no one would have found it odd or perceived it as reform. Likewise, a number of young poets who demanded a place for themselves near the Syllabists, were writing poems against the occupying forces. As a capable candidate for the status of poet, Nâzım Hikmet was among them.

    "835 Satır, published in 1929, caused as it were an explosion in Turkish poetry on account of its revolutionisation of the form of the poem as well as the tone of voice.
    "Socialism was not an unknown doctrine in Turkey. Some socialists defended their ideas, founded a party, published journals and periodicals during the Ottoman era. For example, Tevfik Fikret published a number of his poems in the periodical which was published by a socialist, Nüzhet Sabit.
    "No poet could have created such a powerful effect merely on Marxist-Leninist leanings.
    "But, Nâzım Hikmet, who met Mayakovski and read Futurists during his university years in Moscow, managed to bring a tone¾neither seen nor heard before in Turkish poetry¾which echoed through the lines of his poetry written with the kind of metre called 'free verse' by him.
    "The reason of the immensity of the explosion 835 Lines had caused, was that it brought out this newness as well as the fact that it was easily accepted by poetry readers.
    "Radical novelties usually meet with reaction.
    "But this twism did not work in Nâzım Hikmet's case. The resistance emerging from the conservative groups was easily broken by the pressure coming from poetry readers.

    "Even poets on the opposite side, such as Ahmet Haşim, felt compelled to say that,
    "'Nâzım Hikmet did not invent his style on his own; these kinds of poems are being written all over the world these days. Nâzım Hikmet is a new great poet of ours, who managed to grasp this style, to transform it into Turkish, and to plant it in the soil of this climate. It is fact that this kind of poetry is now preferred to the older one. In the past, poetry was sung to one pipe alone. Nâzım Hikmet brought into being a great orchestra rather than one instrument. But this rich orchestra plays only some excited airs of the marching-tune sort.'
    "With these words, Ahmet Haşim aimed to warn those who were excessive in their eulogies of Nâzım Hikmet. Moreover, he aimed to criticise, on the negative side, the fact that the writings had not been more than marches yet, but, on the other hand, he accepted the superiority of the new manner used by the poet. It is obvious that the pressure of readers made him undertake such explanation.

    "What was it that brought so rapid a success?
    "What we call free verse today did not entirely lack measure. Certain syllable forms were partly used, but without depending on the rules. The poet moved freely and shifted from one form to another, or did not use consistently one kind of form over the others. The connection of the words to one another, the sound of the letters, the music of the language, and the harmony which covers all of them were the most special features of the poet's art.
    "The aim of this scrupulous workmanship was to extract the concept of poetry and to render effective what was said.
    "Poetry was desirable not only for its form but also for its concept. The effort was not for making lyric for form alone, but also for the content of the form.
    "When enunciating poetry, Nâzım Hikmet was not content with intonations of speech only but rather emphasised syllables in a different manner, and changed, extended and thickened the sounds. In his opinion, reading poetry viva voce was an activity external to natural speech, similar to singing a song.
    "He wrote keeping this in mind. He wrote his poems by thinking how things would in fact be said. He repeated lines of his poems aloud while pacing about. He repeated this up to the point where he was pleased with the form and then he would wrote a line down.
    "He probably conceived of the poet as one who would read his poems aloud to crowds. According to him, poetry was something that one should read while an audience listened..
    "In other words, by making the formal revolution in Turkish poetry, Nâzım Hikmet was entrusting the poet with the task of provoking the crowds into action.

    "All of these were not things that would affect the public in a positive way.
    "Because poetry circles do not consist completely of progressive and intellectual people. There were a lot people against socialism whilst they accepted free verse.
    "So, what was it that brought about Nâzım Hikmet's success?
    "A characteristic that is not easy to distinguish while observing these impressive formal changes occurred spontaneously in his later poems: Nâzım Hikmet performed a revolution in poetry but he didn't shut his eyes to the beauty of the poetic concepts which he thought should either be transcended or simply left aside. He had found different methods to assimilate motifs from traditional poetry into his new poetry with unbelievable novelty and freshness.Metre, rhyme, harmony, the liaisons among words, Divan poetry, folk poetry, subsequent periods, recent masters, everybody and everything, all of them, were within his poetry.
    ""In the 1920s, the period when he wrote poetry to be read out loud to the crowds, he utilised Yahya Kemal's poetry and thus created the unbelievable example that showed the synthesis described above. A master-apprentice relationship of such finesse which no one would understand had he not clarified it.

    "When Nâzım Hikmet realised that he could not reach people in Turkey in this way and can not read out his poems loud to the crowds, he turned toward poetry less loud and more soft. Especially while in prison, he created a new style forcing open the barriers among different kinds. He widened up the sphere of poetry that was not intended to be read aloud and reached even to the genre of novel while writing poetry."The Human Landscapes was published in the USA under the subtitle of 'An epic novel in verse', which was an interesting designation. After he left Turkey, Nâzım Hikmet moved very close to the form of everyday speech with his long-lined poetry.

    "While Nâzım Hikmet was carrying out the great revolution in the formal aspect of poetry, building up its concept with socialist humanism, and inserting all aspects of life into poetry, which were only too important for Turkish literature at the time, he could not be that easily accepted by the poetry circles unless he attained the unartificial synthesis of the old and the new as well as the expression of the beauty of traditional poetry.
    "The Epic of Şeyh Bedrettin, published in 1936, was a clear example that showed how he utilised Divan Poetry and Folk Poetry, and with its part entitled 'Yağmur Çiseliyor' (It Is Raining), it is like the forerunner of the poetry that would be written in Turkey after 1940. (Written by Memet Fuat, 20 Temmuz 1996 in Biçemden Biçeme [From Style to Style])

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