Toward a book project, “letter-poems to the beloved” – Week Two

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 Image Credit: ideami.com

 

after

 

have you ever eaten *helva, my love

to the sizzle of the slowly melting butter

anxious in its wait to savor each flake of sugar

the scent of the browning flour in your breath

milk drops rapt in a dance of the delicate blend

yearning for the ultimate sweet feast?

 

have you ever eaten helva, my love

when sugar though was no longer to be found?

 

© hülya n yılmaz – March 26, 2014

From the “letter-poems to the beloved” collection

 [*With "helva," I refer here to the Turkish dessert, "un helvası" (flour halwa).]

 

 

 

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Toward a book project, “letter-poems to the beloved” – Week One

Good Sunday, dear reader!

You know my predicament: I am passionate about writing but I also love teaching. Beyond loving my decades-long professional commitment, I am having to allocate most of my time to its demands. The new semester is coming to a fast end but in an immensely time-consuming manner. I find it more and more difficult in this final month to reserve their deserved time aside for my Sunday reflections – to do any qualitative research on some issues of larger interest to us all, that is. I hope you won’t mind terribly, if I were to share with you one of my new poems for the end of each of the next few weeks. What I would very much appreciate from you is, any few minutes you may be able to set aside to comment on each poetic construct. If that were to be too much to ask, then, perhaps you would be willing to suggest a title for a larger writing project I have in mind in which to collect all these poems. In case you have an active account on facebook, some of them will appear familiar to you, as I have posted them on my page and/or timeline on that platform. What I have conceived so far for the project in question is in line with my core existential determinant – as I articulated it in my debut book:

“Love and melancholy. Two traits that defined me throughout my life thus far. Not very different from Oğuz Ozdeş’ Hülya – the young woman whose tragic love captivated my mother to the extent that she adopted her name for me. As I have said before, I have a commitment to love. When it comes to melancholy, I am considering a healing interaction with it – an initiative I have already prompted with my poems for Trance. I do intend to accomplish a continued healing, though. To begin to achieve such endeavor, I may have to write a different ending to Hülya but to hülya as well. And, I believe I will (from: Preface, Trance, a collection of poems in English, German and Turkish).”

I very much look forward to your comment and your next visit. May the rest of your day and new week be filled with joyous events and interactions.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

do you think back

to remember it all

how i lain on the mossy ground

blanketed myself with your scent

the quiet creek of our first encounter

encircling the rays of an afternoon sun

how it slowed its path to honor our euphoric reunion

to watch us flow into one another - learned and approved…

wind and air however envied pulled their forces together

thus came an end in a lightning - fiercely brash

 

my graceful i kept at bay its dire hope to let you float

what ifs of our dread are adamant in haunting me yet

would i have now been immersed by you instead

had i not defied the boulder at the barricade…

 

i was meant to love you

and i still do

 

© hülya n yılmaz – March 14, 2014

 

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Social media and human connections

In March, several facebook friends and myself have created an event – in a Turkish tradition (I was the only representative of Turkey, so to speak): Aşıklar Bayramı, a.k.a. Aşıklar Atışması.

 

asik_veysel_by_metalfaust copy

 

Aşıklar is the plural of “aşık” to which the Turkish language lends two meanings: lover and the one who is in love with a married person. In the context of the tradition I mention here, however, the word identifies a “minstrel.” It is all about composing poetry (in any format) on cue but to accompany it with a musical creation, also on cue, and by the contestant poets, at that (in Turkey, they have to know how to play “saz” – one of the most popular Turkish folk music instruments).

Hmm. Trouble, right? How on earth can a group of non-Turkish innocent bystanders (!) collaborate - online of all the places – to recreate the Minstrels’ Festival or Minstrels’ Cross-Talk of Turkey, not knowing how to play “saz” (myself included)? Well, we have improvised, of course, and thanks to the most delightful participants’ generosity as far as giving their time and attention, the event was quite an accomplishment. All participants and hosts enjoyed the outcome so much that I want to share with you what we have done. Amid the hustle and bustle we all have to do day in and day out, maybe this unusually pleasant memory of ours will also give you a reason to take a fresh breath of air for a change. Especially, if you picture yourselves in a land of sunshine, in a large hall filled with much laughter from all ages because of much good-willed teasing that goes on before each competition. Imagine then poets taking you into their imagined realities wrapping them up in colorful musical compositions – all unrehearsed. Perhaps, the way we all should be living life at least on one occasion or two…

At the time of our facebook event, we provided our guests with some background information on this tradition that for centuries has enriched life in Anatolia, taking place in different regions of today’s Turkey. I will give you the same insights here, including the legendary folk song by Aşık Veysel Şatıroğlu (1894-1973) – the icon of the Turkish Aşık Minstrel Poetry tradition:

 

 

When we come forward several decades to a contemporary Turkish society, we mostly observe, as in the video below, the traditional “only men” gathering. The first “Aşık” – with the respectful selection (a required step) of his co-poets – begins composing his couplets on the spot. He happens to select a rather sore topic in cheerful and loving words and mannerism (also required): balding. Please help yourselves with the video for a few seconds to participate in the uplifting mood of the minstrels but also of the audience members. Smiles all around! (Who needs to understand the language of the program?)

 

 

The following live coverage presents a new tradition in Turkey, an initiative by women who either self-taught to play the “Saz” – a necessity, or learned it from the masters to now voice their views on life matters.  A few seconds (or more) of a fun experience on an untraveled path, where one woman sings and plays the required instrument in competition with her male counterparts! (Once again: no need to understand the language of focus. The feel is real and there to breathe in, isn’t it?)

 

 

Mixed with interviews, the video program below, then, gives a deeper insight into the transformation of the same ancient folk poetry tradition in the hands of Turkey’s female minstrels. (To a peaceful union between the genders – poets and non-poets alike!)

 

 

What did we do on facebook at the time of our event to unite several people from various parts of the world? We asked them to spontaneously compose poetry after listening to a melodic prompt of our impromptu posting – for which we used ethnic traditional music. Whoever posted his/her couplet first, had the lead, which meant for the next poet to harmonize with the poetic mood, symbolism, diction, etc. of the preceding poetic lines – just like in the Aşık tradition. Then, the next poet would honor the same established poetic composition, add to it his/her couplet, and so on. Some comments about this experience included “fun, yummy,  delicious, lovely, inspiring.”

The final product comes to you as it was created on cue, in its unedited, unrevised version. The music prompt came from an African Music Compilation and the couplets were created in the following order (only the font style and size were modified and capitalization was added for the uniform external appearance):

 

Raindrops falling on drum tops.

When I dance to it my sadness stops.

The heartbeat of each creature is

The music of nature…

As if let loose from shackles my spirit filled with joy

When the beating of the drum reach my eardrum

I- wind rushing

Breathe- soul brushing

With- consuming fires

Desire- fingerless lyres

Like a waterfall?

Body turns into fountain sweat drops

Quenching the heat of passion

Moving for all time

Marking out rhythms and rhymes

Unconscious of ebbs and flows

Here doing only what it knows.

A canvas of fire I see

A sky burning for me

A singe atop of my skin

A grace thermal within

The sun shines brightly through the rain.

Traditionally, a hyena is born in Spain

The scorching sun blowing the breeze of comfort

Was told a lion just take to bed just in Spain without pain

 

One of our dear hosts, Kolade Olanrewaju Freedom, an accomplished poet and the author of The Light Bearer also composed verses (his impeccable talent should not be overlooked here – although, as he said during our event, “I did write something, being a host forbids…”). With his couplet, dearest Kolade embraced everyone’s work with his own right at the end, when parting started feeling rather cold:

 

The sun buries its head

As sleep lures me to bed

Hearing the sounds of a gong

A rhythmic melodious song….

 

My inspiration to conceive such an event was my utterly close familiarization with the humanist teachings of Rumi through my academic studies that now span over multiple decades.

 

Rumi

 

The call this Anatolian Sufi poet makes to humanity in his following stanza seems timeless to me, especially in our century when the storms of divisiveness keep causing complete destructions. Rumi invites all to unite instead:

Come, come again, whoever you are, come!

Heathen, fire worshipper or idolatrous, come!

Come even if you broke your penitence a hundred times,

Ours is the portal of hope, come as you are.

(As quoted in Turkey: A Primary Source Cultural Guide, 2004 by Martha Kneib)

 

Rumi’s philosophy of peace and love in the front of my mind, as always, the words by the Russian-American linguist and literary theorist, Roman Jakobson (1896-1982), then, had appealed to me as a most befitting framework:

“In poetic language, in which the sign as such takes an autonomous value, this sound symbolism becomes an actual factor and creates a sort of accompaniment to the signified.”

My guided interest had been taking me over and over to the key words present in the Jakobson statement: “the sign, sound symbolism” and “accompaniment to the signified” – of course, with me interpreting them in the way I needed and wanted to shape them. And then, another dear facebook friend presented us right before our event had begun – without knowing – the most critical sign I had been looking for. If a poeto-musical event could bring together people who don’t know each other outside a social media platform we all tend to assess as being fully impersonal, imagine what human interaction can take place, were such efforts to be multiplying all over the world…

 

for my March 16 2014 FB event.Les Bush Poet

 

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

Whether through music, poetry or any other joyous aspect of life’s gifts, may you always connect to and harmonize with an unknown soul despite our learned or too often forced disparate realms. May you on this Sunday and on many more days to come ‘cuddle’ with any and all differences that only on the surface separate us from one another.

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existential crisis or incomparable bliss?

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You would all believe me, if I told you he is far more beautiful than this picture does him justice, wouldn’t you? Yes! This image is of my grandson’s. His unintended pose here is utmost precious to me because the shoulder on which he has fallen asleep like an angel of my childhood fantasies happens to be mine. I remember having frozen my daughter right on the spot with my smile of who knows how many thousands of volt. My shoulder has been in this position many times before – in fact, my photo here is an older one when my tiny love had just made it to his two months (he is three-and-a half months old in his photo here). With my lucky charm’s shapely head, chubby cheeks, button nose, mother’s mouth and heavenly breath for me to inhale and never let go from inside me. And, those tiny hands with their father’s fingers – just recently freed from their sharp-nail-repellent baby mittens (his grooming kit is very difficult for his mom to near him with…)! Closing and opening at his dreams’ will to let me know I am there with him. In flesh and blood.

Then, I get to go home. Alone. Days go by fast with demanding work.  The nights should follow suit. For, a teacher’s duties multiply outside the classroom to occupy all evenings, weekends and holidays. I end up doing some more work. But, I get distracted (affordably so, of course) and have the urge to write. About many issues of and angles on our existences. The night when my poem below came to me was exceptionally intense in some personal longing and recollection of a recent loss (to life). I had already started mourning over my self without having exited my lifespan yet…On account of “things” not having been possible for me to materialize, nor to hope for, feeling out of time, and other similar harsh realizations. Being made foremost of emotions, my typing took me to an experience of angst. Not for myself, though, but rather only for the afterward. The ultimate innocence, a fully submissive display of trust, the purest and most unconditional love and eyeful of whole body excitement my grand baby was giving me as a priceless gift began to overwhelm me. It was, as if I had just realized what had happened: I, indeed, was the grandmother of a miracle baby boy. Moreover, with him becoming acutely aware of and visibly happy about the wordless interaction between us. Melancholy hit me. The outcome was the following short verse in my native tongue…(an English translation of it is right beneath the original):

 

ölümü düşünüyorum

eskimiş kalıbıma konup duran inanılmaz bir güzellik nefesinde

yol yorgunu soldakine en karşılıksız masum sevgi gözlerinde

hani cennetten derler ya, işte öylesine kökten gülüşlerinde

korkum sadece benden sonra göreceklerine

 

i am thinking of death

an indescribable beauty in his breath touching on and off my worn out frame

the most unconditional purest love in his eyes for the trek-weary one on my left

you know how they say: of heaven? such original depth in his smiles

my sole fear

what will he be dealt with

after me

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

I wish you all thoughts on and plans for life alone and look forward to your visit next Sunday!

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I have exciting news to share with you!

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Good Sunday, dear readers!

A while ago, I had mentioned to you a project by Inner Child Press, ltd. - an extensive publication of poetry to be distributed to the member nations of the United Nations and the voting members of the United States Congress. It is an extraordinary honor for me to be one of the contributors to this two-volume book. In addition to my poem (please see below) being among over ninety poets’ lyrical creations, a preface I have been privileged to compose will appear on the first pages of this voluminous peace messenger. The publishing date is set as April 1st, 2014. With the public release of this project being right around the corner, I wanted to share this news with you first. Should you obtain a copy of World Healing World Peace Poetry, I hope it will make a memorable reading for you all.

Wishing you a wonderful Sunday, I leave you with my usual excitement for your next visit.

even time and space united

twelfth century Central Anatolia – cradle of civilizations

birthed Rumi, a poet of spirituality

amid teeming wars over religion and arms

he pled all colors of skin, worshippers of any shape or belief

called upon unity on behalf of humanity

 

he was neither the first nor the last to implore

the seed of homosapiens is the same at its core

 

the twenty-first century might – Mandela’s South African light

caressed him – Tolstoy, Picasso not far behind

 

nineteenth century Persia

labored Baha’u’llah

to wed world religions

 

Siddhartha Gautama donned India

in sixth century before Christ

with values of peace

liberating his devotees

from earthly agonies

 

doves led King to a North American glide

that twentieth century’s potent ripples still in tranquil ebb and tide

 

guarding the tortured, those imprisoned, lynched

nurturing them all, Socrates kept vigil – though in poison of hatred

 

before Christ through Confucius the Golden Rule revived

alas! an ancient old wisdom had survived:

 

“Men’s natures are alike, it is their habits that carry them far apart.”

 

habits to arm, to discriminate

to abolish love, to nourish only those who hate

fossilized as heirlooms, resisted each age, firm not to abate

 

yet

even time and space prevailed to unite

for they had love’s healing command on their side

at warp speed, the peaceful have become and multiplied

 

Gandhi

Dalai Lama, the 14th

Gorbachev

Walesa

Suu Kyi

Williams

Corrigan

Laroupe

Ali

Malala

Hanh

Chinmoy

Vivekananda

Wilberforce

Tutu

Jefferson

Wilson

Annan

Carter

Mother Teresa

they

we

he

she

you

i…

 

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Helva, Halva, Halwa, …

Even after several decades passed since I last smelled it coming from my mom’s kitchen, the aroma of its slightly burned delight feels on the roof of my mouth.  “Just because,” she answered, when I first noticed she was making it outside the expected occasion: death.  The fortieth day of a death close to the family’s heart would warranty it, after which it would be repeated on the anniversary of that passing.  “In remembrance of the loss of our beloved among us, to have the strong whiff reach their souls,” my mother would utter on those occurrences – in a very soft voice, almost inaudible.  But that day, it was “just because.”

I absolutely loved then and love now the taste of un helvası (Turkish spelling), the Flour Halva/Helwa but also was engrossed in its unmistakable aromatic tour throughout our three-bedroom flat.  As I am writing now, my mother’s quick hand gestures stay glued to my mind’s eyes; how she would shape this very slowly fried butter, flour, sugar and milk mixture – something that doesn’t look like much at first – into edible rows of a finger dessert (I made up this term based on the English “finger food”), each topped either with a home-roasted raw almond or a large pine nut.  Her helva-making rituals became a more frequent act after that time.  Only after she died was I able to conclude how making that sweet dish had become her own way to feel connected to our beloved dead.  Through the first connector we experience right after our birth: partaking in the festivities of the palate.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

May your Sunday and new week be filled with delectable life experiences, and may you come back to share some of them right here, over an imagined cup of Turkish coffee and a helva of your choice to celebrate a joyous event.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

Related Links:

Ceremonial Significance

Definition in Encyclopedia Britannica

Definition in Wikipedia

Description of the Different Helva Types

History and more

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“on a pedestal, no more – a poem trilogy”

Dear Readers:

Today, I am sharing with you my poem trilogy that was published in The Year of the Poet, a book by Inner Child Press where I was a featured poet this month – carrying such honor together with a fellow author.  In their imagery, these poems deviate significantly from the majority of my previous lyrical compositions.  I hope you will find their invitations to uncover my intended audience at least somewhat of enigmatic quality.

May the rest of your Sunday and new week a delightful one! As always, I look forward to your next visit.

NB_French-Pedestal-LST

the impotent puppeteer

 

not an inner beauty nor on the outside

unlike the tender roots where it sprouted

“a bad seed,” voiced only the wise

 

oh Medusa, how hath thou cloned thyself?

when hath thou destroyed

where hath thou buried

other Gorgons of Ceto

of Phorcys?

 

why, the choice to rejoice each dawning day

in the unsuspecting for their ills?

oh, how they added to thy antediluvian thrills!

 

he was no Perseus

naive

trusting

spell-stricken

blind

 

oh Medusa, how thou…

with one of thy latest winding tresses

chanted from the chest of a confidante’s conniving hisses

secreted his sole devotee the ultimate scarlet sentence

slithering in and out of her…

suffocated their blood from its essence

 

he was no Perseus

naive

trusting

spell-stricken

blind

 

a head, nevertheless, dons Athena’s shield today

a Gorgoneion,?  Not in the least.  Oh, nay!

 

Perseus, thy beloved mother knew its lethal envy for long

as hath thy father, the half-outcast, who did not belong

 

thy sister does at last

 

 

the well-meaning chauvinist

 

Hippolyte Cogniard and his brother The`odore

may be tempted to produce anew

their La cocarde tricolore

in 1839, after all, already

its roots penetrated the First French army

although Nicholas Chauvin – an apocryphal fighter

did probably spend not much time to ponder

what was to become of his exaggerated affection

for it to surpass time, space to infect grave degeneration

an innocent male of today owes him the concept’s doomed derivation:

 

a woman is obliged to appear pretty

full facial paint, short skirts, high heels are a must

men-attracting smiles should be frequent and a plenty

hair to be of buoyant design, unrehearsed – as on an odalisque bust

 

her beauty came from nature

its enticing aura lacked pretense

feminine from head to toe – with legs or without

she smiled – at her will and for herself

burst alluring laughters – when she desired

 

marriage also found her

inside a circle of cages

a mere twenty-four year-old…

 

the distorted-Chauvin-coveting one spoke:

what is it you expect?

where is your alternative?

who would accept you in his life?

 

years later, in rapid aging, he found love

dissolved swiftly his first marital union

wedded a woman less than half his age

 

on the other side of the globe

fences wore away

day by day

the twenty-four year old…

 

 

the learned ignorant

 

in a family of futile males

he reaped one day their parched tree’s single crop

none would dare to conceive the challenge to stop

his edification cured the lost honor of their patriarch

 

heading clans of men from many domineering generations

he bestowed upon the wives identical dispensations

for they birthed equally wasted boy-children

of fetal eminence

 

ages passed

indistinctive women attained nobility

as have the sons, their wives, the in-lawed ovaries

their descendants are donned with unrivaled extravagance

 

the sole daughter has been erased away

along with her nonmale offspring

 

a pre-natal larnyx had not been contracted to their matriarch…

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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