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‘In the polite world of Western letters, poems are meant to speak for themselves. The poet is only as interesting as his work: if he wishes to be taken seriously, his private and political passions must never eclipse his words. But that is just what Nazim Hikmet did, with a vengeance and without apology, throughout his stormy life. His poetry was his politics.’ Maureen Freely, Cornucopia 28..
In the polite world of Western letters, poems are meant to speak for themselves. The poet is only as interesting as his work: if he wishes to be taken seriously, his private and political passions must never eclipse his words. But that is just what Nâzım Hikmet did, with a vengeance and without apology, throughout his stormy life. His poetry was his politics. he sought not just to give voice to the downtrodden and the disenfranchised but to spur them on to revolution. To draw any distinction between his life and his work would be fatuous: it was the poety he wrote as a young Communist in the twenties that lead the authorities to see him as a dangerous subversive. It was seventeen years in Turkish prisons that made him the poet laureate of the left. It was in prison that he wrote his finest poetry. Most of it was seasringly autobiographical and intensely lyrical. It spoke to the heart as well as the mind; that was why it was so powerful. It was his poetry as well as his politics that turned him into a political cause.
Maureen Freely is a lecturer, novelist and journalist and is well known for her translations of Orhan Pamuk’s writing.
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