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POETRY MONTH 30/30/30: Inspiration, Community, Tradition: Day 4 :: Tishon Woolcock on Orhan Veli Kanik

I’m going to level with you; I know nothing about Turkey and I know even less about Turkish Poetry. Luckily, I have Buké, my sole Turkish friend. Buké is tiny, smokes cigarettes, and speaks with a directness that can sometimes be mistaken for rudeness. It is she who introduced me to the Turkish poet Orhan Veli Kanik (1914-1950). I can’t speak to Kanik’s stature but, like Buké, his poetry is about as direct as a poet can get. Like the work of William Carlos Williams or, more contemporarily, Billy Collins, Kanik’s poems have been described as the kind of poetry that convinces readers they, too, can write a poem. Take, for example, “The Hill”.
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THE HILL

In the next life, after the factories end their work
If the road taking us home
In the evenings
Is not
So steep
Death
Is not a horrible thing
At all.

It reads like something your grandfather might say and that’s what makes it so effective. A good poem is a story that never gets old. It stays with you and no matter how often you tell it there remains the same spark of truth. In “People”, Kanik expresses a single thought simply and profoundly. The profundity is apparent upon first reading but the genius of it is a slow burn.

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PEOPLE

All the time
But particularly
When I know you don’t love me.
I wish to see you
Like the people I saw
Sitting on my mother’s lap
As a kid…

Unencumbered by ornament and deceptively simple, Kanik’s poems are as accessible as they are insightful. They’re a bit like the blues. Turkish blues. Is that a thing?

Here’s my own poem, not exactly inspired by Kanik but in the same tradition.

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Running 2

if you come in last place
and still manage to break records
it’s all well and good
but sooner or later you’ll come to find out
that you’re only racing dead people

Read Orhan Veli Kanik’s book “I, Orhan Veli” online: http://www.cs.rpi.edu/~sibel/poetry/books/i_orhan_veli/

More on Orhan Veli:
http://middlestage.blogspot.com/2006/12/orhan-veli-kanik-all-of-sudden.html

Tishon is the founder of the independent press Well&Often and co-author of The Letter All Your Friends Have Written You: Poems (with Caits Meissner, who we’ll be hearing from tomorrow.) He has performed (poetry is totally performance) at Highline Ballroom, La Mama Theatre, LouderArts Reading Series, Bowery Poetry Club, and The Nuyorican Poets Cafe. Tishon lives in Brooklyn.

Editors note: Tishon and I met years ago, when in one of my many lives I was briefly business manager for design at Aeropostale, where he was a graphics maven (he still is!… but elsewhere, on his own terms…as it should be.) He is a terrific and refreshingly unaffected poet and writer (fyi, and a successful NANOWRIMO player, which I consider a nearly unimaginable feat!) Happy to have him here and as part of the ExStratisphere.

2 Comments

  1. […] Meissner is a poet, writer, musician, designer and educator who recently released a book with poet Tishon, and currently serves as education Program Developer at Tribeca Film Institute and a Founding […]

  2. […] that’s me!) on Mina/Traver Pam Dick Pete Reilly on Mary Oliver Bill Considine on Elinor Nauen Tishon Woolcock on Orhan Veli Kanik Caits Meissner on Adam Falkner Jacob Perkins and Matt Nelson on Paul Legault Gregory Crosby on […]

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