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Turkish Poetry

Necip Fazıl KISAKÜREK (1901)

In his own words, he was born in "a huge mansion at Çemberlitaş, in one of the streets descending towards Sultanahmet" (1904). He was educated at various schools, meanwhile at American College, and received his secondary education at Naval School (1922). He received religious courses from Aksekili Ahmed Hamdi and history courses from Yahya Kemal in this military school but he was actually influenced by İbrahim Aşkî, who he defines to have "penetrated into deep and private areas in many inner and outer sciences from literature and philosophy to mathematics and physics". İbrahim Aşkî provided his first contact with Sufism even at a "plan of skin over skin". "After completing candidate and combat classes" of Naval School, Kısakürek entered the Philosophy Department of Darülfünûn and graduated from there (1921-1924). One of his closest friends in philosophy is Hasan Ali Yücel. He was educated in Paris for one year with the scholarship provided by the Ministry of National Education (1924-1925). He worked at the posts of official and inspector at Holland, Osmanlı and İş Banks after returning home (1926-1939), and gave lectures at the Faculty of Linguistics and History and Geography and the State Conservatoire in Ankara and the Academy of Fine Arts in İstanbul (1939-1942). Having established a relation with the press in his youth, Kısakürek quitted being an official after that time and started to earn his living from writing and magazines.

Nacip Fazıl Kısakürek died in his house at Erenköy after an illness that "lasted long but did not affect his intellectual activity and writing" (25 May 1983) and was buried in the graveyard on the ridge of Eyüp after an eventful funeral.

Necip Fazıl was awarded the First Prize of C.H.P. Play Contest in 1947 with his play Sabır Taşı. Kısakürek was awarded the titles of "Great Cultural Gift" by the Ministry of Culture (25 May 1980) and "Greatest Living Poet of Turkish" by the Foundation of Turkish Literature upon the 75th anniversary of his birth.

His Literature Life

In his own words, having "learned to read and to write from his grandfather in very young ages", Kısakürek became "crazy about limitless, trivia reading" until the age of twelve starting from "groups of sentences belonging to lower class writers of the French". He writes as follows: "My interest climbing up to the works such as (Pol ve Virjini), (Graziyella), (La-dam-d-kamelya), (Zavallı Necdet) claiming to be sensational and literary, eventually transformed into an illness and surrounded my nights and days as a net". Having been involved in literature with such a reading passion, Necip Fazıl states that his "poetry started at the age of twelve" and that his mother said "how much I would like you to be a poet" by showing the "poetry notebook of a girl with tuberculosis" lying on the bed next to his mother's bed when he went to visit her staying at the hospital, and adds: "My mother's wish appeared to me as something that I fed inside but I was not aware of until twelve. The motive of existence itself. I decided inside with my eyes on the snow hurling on the window of the hospital room and the wind howling; I will be a poet! And I became".

The first published poem of Necip Fazıl is "Kitabe" poem that he later included in his book Örümcek Ağı with the title "Bir Mezar Taşı" and it was published in the Yeni Mecmua dated 1 July 1923.

After this date Kısakürek expanded his reputation until 1939 with his poems and articles published in magazines such as Yeni Mecmua, Milhi Mecmua, Anadolu, Hayat and Varlık and Cumhuriyet newspaper.

After returning home from Paris in 1925, Necip Fazıl stayed in Ankara intermittently but during long periods and in his third visit he published a magazine called Ağaç on 14 March 1936 by providing the support of some banks. Ağaç, the writers of which included Ahmet Hamdi Tanpınar, Ahmet Kutsi Tecer and Mustafa Şekip Tunç, decided to follow a spiritualist and idealist line on the contrary to the materialist and Marxian ideas supported by the writers such as Burhan Belge, Vedat Nedim Tör, Şevket Süreyya Aydemir and İsmail Husrev Tökin of closed Kadro magazine owned by Yakup Kadri and which influenced the intellectuals of the time greatly. Kısakürek later transferred Ağaç magazine published during six volumes in Ankara to İstanbul, however, not finding much readers, the magazine was closed at the 17th volume.

Necip Fazıl this time published the magazine called Büyük Doğu in 1943 which also had religious and political identity, fronted the rulers with Büyük Doğu that he published intermittently as weekly, daily and monthly until 1978, he was prosecuted because of his articles and publications and the magazine was closed several times. Particularly objecting to secularism and supporting Sultan Abdülhamit, Necip Fazıl gradually became one of the leaders of the Islamist section. It should be stated that as in Ağaç, the writers' cadre is quite cosmopolitan in the first volumes of Büyük Doğu as well. From Bedri Rahmi to Sait Faik, many signatures of the new literature are seen on the pages of the magazine.

However, as Necip Fazıl transferred Büyük Doğu into an organ of particularly religious quarrel, these writers have withdrawn from the pages one after another. Upon the collection of Büyük Doğu in 1947, Necip Fazıl also published a political humor magazine called Borazan, which he could publish only three volumes between November-December.

His Works

Örümcek Ağı (1925), Kaldırımlar (1928), Ben ve Ötesi (1932), Sonsuzluk Kervanı (1955), Çile (1962), Şiirlerim (1969), Esselâm (1973), Çile (1974), Bu Yağmur.

Tohum (1935), Bir Adam Yaratmak (1938), Künye (1940), Sabır Taşı (1940), Para (1942), Namı Diğer Parmaksız Salih (1949), Reis Bey (1964), Ahşap Konak (1964), Siyah Pelerinli Adam (1964), Ulu Hakan Abdülhamit (1965), Yunus Emre (1969).

Aynadaki Yalan (1980), Kafa Kağıdı (1984-Published as a series in Milliyet newspaper).

Birkaç Hikaye Birkaç Tahlil (1932), Ruh Burkuntularından Hikayeler (1964), Hikayelerim (1970).

Cinnet Mustatili (1955), Hac (1973), O ve Ben (1974), Bâbıâli (1975).


I'm in the street, in a street all lonely 
Walking, walking and never looking back 
At the point my path is mingled with the black 
I seem to see a phantom wait for me 

Ashen clouds overcast the darkling sky 
Lightening bolts seek the chimneys of homes 
In this midnight only two who sleepless roam 
I here am one and there the sidewalks lie 

Drop by drop a collects in me 
At the head of every street the demons wait 
The houses fix their gaze, dark black and great, 
On me, like blindmen with their eyes ripped free 

The sidewalks, mother to the suffering 
Sidewalks, the person who has lived in me 
Sidewalks, sound heard when all sounds cease to be 
Sidewalks, a language within me ing 

I'll not give up life in a soft embrace 
I am the child nursed at this sidewalk's breast 
Please let no morning on this dark street rest 
On this dark street let me ever run my race 

Let me go on and the road, let us not stay 
Let the lamps flow past me like a flood 
Let hungry dogs hear the click-clack of my tread 
Let there be an arch, vaulted in gloom, on my way 

Let the daytimes be yours, give me darknesses 
Let me not walk in light nor to eyes appear 
As in a damp quilt let me wrap myself here 
Cover me, cover me in their cool darknesses 

If my body, full-length on these stones could lie 
If these cold stones would draw the fever from my brow 
Like these streets plunging into uncanny drowse 
If only the sidewalks' melancholy mate would die 

Nâzım Hikmet (RAN) (1902-1963)

He was born in Salonica (1902). He completed his primary education in İstanbul at Göztepe Taşmektep, primary section of Galatasaray High School (1914) and Nişantaşı Numune School, and received his secondary education at Heybeliada Naval School (1918) where he attended upon the recommendation of Naval Forces Commander Cemal Paşa, who listened and very much admired his poem "The Words of a Naval Officer" that he wrote when he was only 12. After graduating from the Naval School, Nâzım Hikmet was assigned to Hamidiye Cruiser as a trainee deck officer, he caught cold and pleurisy during a night watch (1919), and as he could not recover his health, he was discharged from military as disabled (1920).

After leaving military, being very sorry about the occupation of İstanbul, Nâzım Hikmet went to Anatolia to participate in the National Struggle and served as a teacher at Bolu High School for a short time (1921). The poet, interested in the Russian revolution, went to Moscow from Batum after some time and studied economy and social science at the Easter University (1922-1924). He joined Aydınlık magazine after his return home, passed to Russia again when he was informed that a verdict of sentence "in default" was given against him because of his poems published there, returned to Turkey upon the enforcement of amnesty and kept under detention at Hopa prison for sometime (1928).

Nâzım Hikmet then settled in İstanbul, worked at various newspapers and magazines and film studios, published his first poetry books and wrote his plays (1928-1932). Meanwhile, he was arrested again and gained his freedom upon the amnesty law that was put into effect due to the 10th year of the Republic. He worked as an article writer and editor at Akşam, Son Posta and Tan newspapers with Orhan Selim nickname (1933).

He was prosecuted with the indictment that he made propaganda among the students of Army War Academy and sentenced to 15 years by the Military Court of War Academy and subsequently to 20 years by the Military Court of Naval Command, so as to be totally 35 years and his sentence was reduced to 28 years and four months under articles 68 and 77 of Turkish Penal Code (1938). Following the great campaign launched by the intellectuals to include him within the scope of the amnesty law introduced after the Democrat Party came to power (1950), the jurists made recourse to legal remedies and meanwhile, Nâzım Hikmet commenced a hunger strike in the prison. Eventually, the remaining sentence of Nâzım Hikmet was excused and the poet gained his freedom after 13 years of imprisonment.

A decree for military service was taken for the poet, who could not find work and publish books after being released, and Nâzım Hikmet, 50 years old and ill, was in a very hard condition. Very afraid of being killed, the poet accepted the recommendation of Refik Erduran (reputed playwright and journalist of later times) and left Turkey by getting on a Romanian-flag vessel navigating in the Black Sea via a motorboat by his help.

Nâzım Hikmet died in Moscow (3rd June 1963).


Nâzım Hikmet published his first poems that he wrote with syllabic meter in magazines such as Yeni Mecmua, İnci, Ümit and Birinci Kitap, İkinci Kitap, etc. published by Celal Sahir (Erozan). He won the first prize in the contest held by Alemdar newspaper with his poem "Bir Dakika" (1920). Writing subsequently in magazines such as Aydınlık, Resimli Ay, Hareket, Resimli Herşey and Her Ay, Nâzım Hikmet could not publish anything after going to prison. However, during 1940s, some of his poems were published in socialist magazines such as Yeni Edebiyat, Ses, Gün, Yürüyüş, Yığın, Baştan and Barış with the nicknames İbrahim Sabri and Mazhar Lütfi or without signature. His Kuvâyı Milliye Destanı was published in feuilletons in Havadis newspaper in İzmir (1949). Yön magazine published that work (1965), reestablishing communication between Nâzım Hikmet and his readers and broke the ring placed on the work of the poet.


835 Satır (1929), Jokond ile Si-Ya-U (1929), Varan 3 (1930), 1+1=1 (1930-with Nail V.), Sesini Kaybeden Şehir (1931), Benerci Kendini Niçin Öldürdü (1932), Gece Gelen Telgraf (1932), Taranta Babu'ya Mektuplar (1935), Simavna Kadısı Oğlu Şeyh Bedrettin Destanı (1936), Kurtuluş Savaşı Destanı (1965), Saat 21-22 Şiirleri (1965-Pub. Prep. M. Fuat), Memleketimden İnsan Manzaraları (1966-1967-Pub. Prep. M. Fuat, 5 Volumes), Rubailer (1966-Pub. Prep. M. Fuat), Dört Hapishaneden (1966-Pub. Prep. M. Fuat), Yeni Şiirler (1966-Pub. Prep. Dost Yayınevi), Son Şiirleri (Pub. Prep. Habora Kitabevi), Tüm Eserleri (All Works) (1980-Pub. Prep. A. Bezirci, 8 Volumes).

Kafatası (1943), Bir Ölü Evi Yahut Merhumun Hanesi (1932), Unutulan Adam (1935), İnek (1965), Ferhat ile Şirin (1965), Enayi (1965), Sabahat (1966), Yusuf ile Menofis (1967), İvan İvanoviç Var mıydı, Yok muydu (1985).

Kan Konuşmaz (1965), Yeşil Elmalar (1965), Yaşamak Güzel Şey Be Kardeşim (1966).

İt Ürür Kervan Yürür (1936-with Osman Selim nickname), Alman Faşizmi ve Irkçılığı (1936), Milli Gurur (1936), Sovyet Demokrasisi (1936).

Kemal Tahir'e Hapishaneden Mektuplar (1968), Cezaevinden Memet Fuat'a Mektuplar (1968), Bursa Cezaevinden Vâ-Nû'lara Mektuplar (1970), Nâzım'ın Bilinmeyen Mektupları (1986-Letters with Adalet Cimcoz, Prep. Ş. Kurdakul), Piraye'ye Mektuplar (1988).

La Fontaine'den Masallar (1949-with the name Ahmet Oğuz Saruhan), Sevdalı Bulut (1967).

Nâzım Hikmet, who started writing poems at a very young age, wrote his first poem on 3rd July 1913, when he was only 11: "Feryâd-ı Vatan". The subject of this poem is the victory of Balkan War and the progress of the enemy up to Çatalca. Stating that in the poems of Nâzım Hikmet written between 1913-1920 mostly personal subjects are handled, Asım Bezirci writes that particularly the theme of love is dominant and they have a "melancholic air".

Vâ-Nû states that Yahya Kemal, who was his instructor at Naval School and had sympathy to his mother Celile Hanım, revised some of his early youth poems. The first published poem of the poet is "Hâlâ Servilerde Ağlıyorlar mı?" published in the Yeni Mecmua dated 3 October 1918 with the signature of Mehmet Nâzım. This poem was later published in Ümid magazine with the same name and signature.

Besides patriotism and loyalty to the historical past, these poems also demonstrate that the poet started to become a master, did not have difficulty using the meter and was tending to use a more pure Turkish.


After going to Anatolia and meeting with the problems of war on one hand and those of people on the other and the realities that he could not differentiate sufficiently until then, Nâzım Hikmet understood that he could not be contended with syllabic and prosody meters and that he should lead towards a new poetry, a different poetry. "I went to Anatolia. The people were skinny and combating against the Greek armies with ancient weapons, with their hunger and their louse. I discovered the people and their war. I was surprised, afraid, I loved them and perceived that all these should be written. I perceived that new things, things that were not expressed until then should be expressed through poetry. In this sense, I was first interested in finding a new form for this new essence. I started from the meter. I tried meter not at the end of lines, but one at the end and one at the beginning."

Nâzım Hikmet had gained a new world vision in Russia and his attitude towards events and human relations had changed radically. The poet was engaged to Marxism and he had adopted dialectic and historical materialism. However, he could not yet completely save himself from the old shapes. For example, his poem called "Kitâb-ı Mukaddes" published in Yeni Hayat magazine in 1922 criticizes the religions and thus gives clue about transformation of content. An attempt to surpass syllabic meter is also observed in this poem. Nâzım Hikmet says that he wrote the poem with lines consisting of 7 and 14 syllables.


Desiring to form a new poetry, Nâzım Hikmet saw a poem of Maiakowski in a newspaper at Batum and was enchanted from the form of this poem that he could not understand the content of, as he did not know Russian. Nâzım Hikmet tells the story of "Açların Gözbebekleri", his first poem written with free verse as follows: "We passed from the starvation area while coming to Moscow from Batum. What I have seen touched me much. But I wanted to scream that even such a starvation could not destroy the revolution. In Moscow, I attempted to write a poem on starvation with syllabic meter and various syllable combinations of this meter; I could not succeed. Then the form of the poem that I had seen in Batum appeared before my eyes. I decided that this could not be French free verse that I knew very well, I considered that this was a brand-new thing and the poet thought in this way as waves, and I wrote 'Açların Gözbebekleri'." This poem is a very different poem with its different use of letters and its order of broken lines.

Although it was asserted that Nâzım Hikmet directly imitated Maiakowski's poem, the seriousness of such allegations is disputable. In fact Nâzım Hikmet himself states that he saw Maiakowski's poem, but this was only seeing in these years. He tells the followings: "In the beginning I did not understand anything from it, because my Russian was bad. I can not say that I now understand it completely. But I was imitating his lines in the form of steps. The common aspects of Maiakowski's poem and mine: Firstly, poetry and prose; secondly, surpassing the gap between various kinds (lyrical, critical, etc.); third, introduction of political discourse in poetry. On the other hand, we are using different forms with him. Maiakowski is my mentor, but I am not writing like he does."

He writes more interesting things in a letter that he sent to Kemal Tahir: "I found the poems of Maiakowski published in 940 and gathered in one single volume. I am reading them. I shall confess to you, but let this remain a secret between us, that I am getting to know Maiakowski new. I mean, except one or two poems that I listened from himself, I am reading his published poems for the first time. And unfortunately I assure you that I am seeing his views on art also for the first time. However, the rule that similar conditions give rise to similar ideas was realized here with its rough lines. We had made the same thing with Maiakowski. Of course he made it better than me in many aspects, but there is no need to be modest; in some aspects I made it better. This is so."


It is not a shame to be a Tahir
or Zuhre either
and even dying of love in not sameful
the hard part is being Tahir and Zuhre in the heart
For example by fighting in a barricade
for example while going to the north pole to explore
for example is it a sham to die
when tryinga serum on your veins
It is not a shame to be either Tahir or Zuhre
Even dying because of love is not a shame
You love the world full throttle
but it is not aware of that
you don't want to leave the world
but it will leave you
I mean if you love the apple
should the apple love you too?
I mean, if Zuhre did not Tahir anymore
or at all
What would Tahir loose
From his own?
It is not a shame to be a Tahir
or Zuhre either
and even dying because of love in not a shame