Down the Hudson, & Seyhmus Dagtekin

Off to New York in an hour. Ah, that train ride down along the Hudson — still one of my great pleasures in this country — I did it first in September 1967 to go up to Bard College and it was my first discovery of the US beyond NYC — my mind boggled when I realized that beyond Yonkers houses were all made of clinker-built wooden boards. At the Hudson station I always wonder if Ashbery will come aboard, and in Rhinecliff I expect Robert Kelly to clamber up (which has indeed happened several times). But, à défaut de merles on mange des grives, I mean, à defaut de poètes on regarde les hérons — if there are no poets, we’ll gaze at the herons in the river, or listen to Nicole Peyrafitte’s song “Mahicanituck” (The Mohican name of the river Hudson) from her CD “The bi-continental chowder“.
But I wanted to get back to that Paris reading mentioned on this blog in the econd of the 13 May entries. Besides the pleasure of seeing & hearing friend Jean Portante and, surprise, seeing my friend and translator Eric Sarner whom I thought still in Montevideo, the evening’s literary surprise came from hearing for the first time the poetry of Seyhmus Dagtekin. Born in Harun, a small Kurdish village in south-east Turkey, where, I was told, he was a sheepherder, he left his country in 1987 at age 22 rather than be drafted into the Turkish army. Upon arriving in Paris, he started to learn French — and published his first volume of poems in that language less than 10 years later. He has meanwhile published 4 more volumes of poems, and one novel, all in French. I loved his reading — there was an energy, an oral intelligence in the way he read that went beyond most French-language readings (the French still say: “dire des poèmes” — to “say poems” rather than “read poems” & often prefer actors to “speak,” in fact, interpret, act their poems).

I have not yet had the time to translate any of his work, but hope to do so — at least a few poems — this summer. Here are a couple sentences from the back cover of La Langue Mordue, The Bitten Tongue, published by Le Castor Astral in 2005:

“I tell myself that the world, that being, are like a caldron and that art, writing are the ladle. The longer and bigger the ladle, the better you rake the depths and limits of the caldron, the better you are able to stir up the bottom and the limits of being.

That’s what I bet on, that’s the meaning I try to convey through poetry and writing: to try to extend my ladle, my means of stirring being, of pushing kowledge of it as far ahead as possible, and make its song heard.”

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