Excerpts from Küçük Iskender's Souljam, translated from Turkish by Murat Nemet-Nejat....


jim morrison is sherlock holmes, dr. watson
pulls down his calvin kelins. violence, at bottom,
is a crack of yearning.


am am, am ice vermin, so human goose the ice block on which i crawl


that someone's trying to kill me
is inlaying my mind, as if we'd
swapped secrets
making a night of it. many, many nights
of drowning and bruise


horse with a broken leg in my heart
who'll shoot you?

how many whispered words mopped up by my fingers wandering on your lips, words i
couldn't catch


my identity is the befouling of what is
knowable, and the downward velocity
of becoming young.


ignorant spaces


the difference between knowing that what is merely visible is woven
into what is longed for, and spelling out
that what is merely accepted is in conflict with what is rumored


a blur of moans.

let my heart beat like a rose
running fast from the scene


rain, brain, awesome harmony, a giant tumor
of knee jerk reactions. to insinuate into this tumor:
to be cross-examined by a bureaucracy


my soul the bribe given my body


god is useless
i'm god


my soul is a jelly fish, without a womb

light descends in the gutted out space of the dome.

The contents of Iskender's poems operate as if the totality of human emotion is something which violently emerges from and collapses into an endless void, illustrating the fundamental difference between the materiality of things in the world and being. They question the very nature of self.

It's nearly impossible to elaborate on these poem for me; they say it all. Which is of course a reflection of the power of these brief loops of language. Iskender is a poet to watch. Nemet-Nejat is a master of translation.

from the San Francisco State Poetry Center web site, a little info on Murat:

Murat Nemet-Nejat has been engaged for years in the great project of bringing contemporary Turkish poetry—drawn from a body of work that "is one of these gigantic forces basically invisible . . . in the West"—into English. His translations include: Orhan Veli Kanik’s crystalline lyrics from the 1940s (collected in I, Orhan Veli, Hanging Loose Press); Ece Ayhan’s dark, intensely visionary prose-poems ("a poet of the victimized, of the totally discarded and forbidden") A Blind Cat Black and Orthodoxies (in one volume from Sun & Moon); Küçük Iskender’s staggering Souljam (in manuscript), a long poem that’s somehow violent and tender at once, swirlingly baroque in sensibility; alongside numerous other contemporary Turkish poets, several introduced under the heading "A Godless Sufism" in a recent short anthology (Talisman 14)—the root-work of a larger anthology to be published in 2003.

Murat Nemet-Nejat was born in Istanbul in 1940, to a Jewish family of Persian background, and came to the U.S. in 1959, graduating from Amherst College and Columbia University. His books include The Bridge, a long narrative poem, and a remarkable long essay The Peripheral Space of Photography (Green Integer, 2002). A dealer in antique rugs, he lives in Hoboken, New Jersey.

I believe Souljam is still only in manuscript and has not yet been published. I guess it's not so remarkable how, given the piles of absolutely bland dross coming out of the American Poetry Publishing Machine, this book remains unpublished. A great poet, a poet who has poetic subject matter for the contents of his poetry, who says everything he means in such short spaces permitting no further elaboration, just cannot get published? Eck. Iskender is everything the pre-sellout Simic was, but sans the pensive dorkiness. Iskender's got attitude and I think he's entitled to every bit of it.

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