Poem of a Political Prisoner

Nazim Hikmet: Invitation

Galloping from Far Asia and jutting out
into the Mediterranean like a mare’s head
this country is ours.

Wrists in blood, teeth clenched, feet bare
and this soil spreading like a silk carpet,
this hell, this paradise is ours.

Shut the gates of plutocracy, don’t let them open again,
annihilate man’s servitude to man,
this invitation is ours..

To live like a tree single and at liberty
and brotherly like the trees of a forest,
this yearning is ours.

 

Some have called Nazim Hikmet a ‘romantic communist’. He loves his land, a Turkey of poverty and oppression, of arrest and exile. He loves it more that its rulers love it. For years, he is imprisoned in Bursa and Cankiri. Nazim Hikmet dies in exile in Moscow in 1963, still yearning for his land.

In the statistics of poets, imprisonment is more common than among other labourers. Language is a dangerous factory. In their own way, poets have been miners, mining the earth under the feet of power, mining the shafts and tunnels with the explosives of their poems.

For power it seems rational: if the poets are silenced then millions will be mute, millions will loose their tongue.

 

Nazim Hikmet, Selected Poetry. Translation: Randy Blasing and Mutlu Konuk. Persea Books, 1986.

 

Nazim Hikmet, Behind the Walls: Selected Poems. Translation: Ruth Christie, Richard McKane, introduced by Tâlat Sait Halman. Anvil Press Poetry, 2002.

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