From "I Die the Most Beautiful Death of All" to "Poppy Sprinkles"

The poet Bulent Ozcan who encircles life with poetry

Ali Zulfikar Dogan / Germany
Translated from Turkish by Hakan Calbayram / England


He is a poet with smiling eyes, a poet who never gives up hope, a poet whose hope for life would last as long as his heart beats. He has kept his passion for freedom strong all through his life, even under the wings of pain. With a sip of poetry he wakes up and says "hello" to the sun. He has his breakfast with a slice of poetry. With a breath of poetry he smiles to humanity.

He feels and listens to the tick of the clock with his heart and has great perception to intuitively know where love hides, where the places off the beaten path are. He does not spit out, nor he preaches. He does not take out any bank credits, nor he carries out frauds against the State. He says "father" to nobody but Hasan Ozcan. His real friends are birds and ants. And the wind is his confidant... A poet who is full of love, for everyone, a poet who is full of poetry, who actually smells of poetry, a poet with the warmest heart, a stouthearted poet Bulent Ozcan.

The Dead and Poetry for the Living Dead;

The State usually does not leave him alone because he has not robbed anyone let alone the State. One day, on 13th August 1993, we see him at a bus stop in Gaziantep, next to his exhibition of his poetry together with some paintings. One day, on 8th November 1996, we see him throwing his books over from the Galata Bridge in protest against the State. We hear him: "If the fish would not know, God definitely would". On 25th February 1997, in Gaziantep Cemetery, he organizes a poetry recital just for "the dead":

"On the one side the dead / On the other the living / The dead are only immortals / But the living are just dead..."

He calls attention to that contradiction between the dead and the living which we all seem to know of. He leaves his books in the cemetery but the policemen nearby catch him by the arms. He just looks at them and smiles. He is a strong critic of the indifference of people in the face of social events and intellectuals' withdrawal into their own little worlds. He carries out a war against this insensitivity into which humanity has fallen, sharpening his love with the feelings of brotherhood and sisterhood. He keeps his faith strong in the beautiful days to come. His resistance is reflected upon his poetry, as if to quench steel... "There is barely time to reunite" says Bulent Ozcan in his famous poem "Mornings with Rose Faces"... Like Voltaire, he combats fanaticism; he opposes those who make religion a flag and drink human blood... He calls out to the readers with the following lines: "God is dead / May God rest in peace..." (I Die the Most Beautiful Death of All, p.77). He becomes the water from which Herodotos drank, he becomes the earth to which Yunus leaned down... He is a poet who, like Voltaire, defends the idea that one's purpose in life should not be to strive to go to an imaginary Heaven after Death though with regrets but to achieve happiness for all human beings through the Sciences and the Arts. He is a poet who through all his life has never separated poetry from action, a poet who strongly believes that one has to pave the way to Universality through Locality, and that the kind of poetry which does not encompass Universal Values is doomed to disappear. He shuts all the doors to populism, and that is why he does not get what he deserves and is often ignored within some circles... He has no interest whatsoever in carrying favour for anybody. Believing that his poetry would eventually find the place that it really deserves, he concerns himself with the real human within himself; he reproduces and reproduces the poetry which aches in his heart; he writes the kind of poetry which is deeply quite, plain and simple, and yet has its own unique subtle tones, like the waters who flow silently underground...

The Truth Hurts His Soul;

In April 1995, he publishes Ba­bozumu Ortak Betik, which was welcomed with enthusiasm. However, for some political reasons, he had to suspend the publication of Bagbozumu. He writes articles about poetry, art and philosophy for local papers in Gaziantep. These are articles with strong poetic content and a wise voice. However, he receives threat after threat from religious fundamentalists. He ignores them and actually makes public those threats in a newspaper called Yeni Gazete, to which he regularly contributes with articles, and presses charges. In September 1995 he gets attacked by armed gunmen. Very luckily, he comes out alive and continues to fight with even more persistence. In Notes to the Readers he remarks: "All these are part of the status quo; it is a period through which one needs to pass; after this period tomorrow will be much better, sunnier, happier, more hopeful. This period will eventually come to an end, dear reader, w i l l  c o m e  t o  a n  e n d! And the world will be a rose garden; people will look at each other with smiling eyes, with love!

Hope is a sap of a tree and there comes a moment when it rises toward the tips of the branches with the morning twilight! Adjust your day and time for hope..."

To Onat Kutlar;

The city, Gaziantep, is like a century in the life of Bulent Ozcan. He is the poet who calls Gaziantep the "City of Love". His love for that city is engraved on his poetry. By saying "I'm cross with this city" he sends out a poetic smile to Onat Kutlar as well:

I'm cross with this city, master
But I'm also disappointed with her!

- For Onat Kutlar -

I'm cross with this city, master
But I'm also disappointed with her!
And yet I have a few words to say still
To the people of this city:
Its tomorrow is dark
and will be much worse and darker...

I'm cross with this city, master
But I'm also disappointed with her!
She doesn't look after its arts,
its artists...
I've written poetry for this city
line by line
I've given her my warmest affection.
She hasn't understood me, ah, without avail,
she little understood me!

My teardrops ran down
each paving-stone of this city
And yet crazy looney loves of mine
on every corner of this city.
I knocked about till dawn
in the streets infatuated with love
That's why I know every corner by heart...
All the paving-stones, all the streets,
Trees and birds bear witness;
I loved this city so much, master
I just loved this city;
Loved the sky in Kirkayak
the most
And the Lovers' Bridge
with never-ending love...
Do you remember, in my letter to you
I wrote "City of Love" on the envelope
And you replied,
"How is the weather in the "City of Love?"
The weather is nice, the weather is pleasant;
But I'm cross with this city, master
I'm also disappointed with her!
This city made me a poet, left me crying;
With no job, no strength
Hungry and miserable!..

I had not felt so deeply before
I've never been this sad...
But you know, I have a great deal to say!
Leave it for the next letter.
I'm cross with this city, master
But I'm also disappointed with her!
Here's to your health...

Being a Poet and the Poetry of Being;

The poetry of Bulent Ozcan is unique not only because poetry and music entwine with each other in his poetry but also its doors are open to philosophy; it has its own subtle mathematics, its own colourful metaphysics. The mystical workmanship that we see in his poetry can almost be compared to an aesthetics which is almost flawless, like we find in a diamond. This mystical realism which does not give itself away so easily becomes even more tasteful as times goes by, like a bottle of aged wine, combined, of course, with his Anatolian, spotless personality. He sometimes creates his own dreams of what he would write down on paper. He takes a deep breath of their smell and finds shelter in the bosom of poetry. The perfume of his poetry oozes out of many different places, which are quiet and secluded... He is both a goldsmith and a porter of his poetry. With so much labour, little by little, sometimes painful, he weaves his poetry like a silkworm... He listens to that tinkling voice in complete silence. The poetry of Bulent Ozcan has its own unique colours, its own unique personality; together with air, wind and earth. As Bilsen Basaran pointed out in the "Poetry of Bulent Ozcan": "...In all of his poems there is magic and charm. Their colour, taste and sound are very very special and these poems are decorated with extraordinary things unique to Ozcan." He processes life like a goldsmith. He questions life itself but he believes that his poetry too must be consistent with his questioning, and he stubbornly insists that one cannot separate a poet's workmanship from his own being as a poet in this world. One needs to see that the overwhelming problems in the society in which we live are very much part of our own realities, and yet one also needs to weave his or her own philosophy of life around those realities. It is probably for this reason that the poetry of Bulent Ozcan are full of Mesopotamian colours. The true colour of Ozcan's poetry is based on those colours... He steps on each word, then he turns his face toward Nile and pours out his words... His poems are like a well-steeped tea brewed with the clear waters of Ararat...

"Every bird
carries on her wings
the geography
of her own country..."

His Exiled Life;

He leaves Turkey in May 1997 for London. His poems which he wrote between 1996 and 2002 are published in January 2002 by Hera Siir Kitapligi under the title of "Poppy Sprinkles" (Gelincik Tozlari).

Poppy Sprinkles

The pages you skip through without reading
Are the broken notes of your life
Memories are now those tired waters
The bleeding wind of this poem...

Each river leans on its own sky
Each bird thinks its own world as its own sky
That life which you've walked through with full conviction
Poppy sprinkles blowing in the air...

11 January 2001, London

He presently cannot attend to cultural and artistic activities to which he has been invited because of the heavy bureaucracy of the Home Office. He is like a prisoner in England. He is in exile. And he is very disappointed. England is not the England anymore which Voltaire was very fond of. He has dozens of poems, essays, research papers which are waiting to be published. The publication of all these depends on how free the poet is. He needs to visit some countries in Europe in order to publish his works.

Awards;

His poems are translated into many languages including English, French and Russian. His poems translated into Persian by Naser Feiz have been published in prominent poetry magazines in Tehran.

He has been awarded dozens of poetry prizes, but he believes that this is not and cannot be a measure of one's poetic quality. For this reason, bearing in mind that mentioning all the prizes he has so far been awarded might hurt the poet's feelings, I will only talk about the award of the Humanist International (1992). He was given this award (The Jury Special Prize, 21 people) because the poet Bulent Ozcan does not see any higher love than love for humanity.

The last award came from England, I think! You might ask how?.. By taking hostage of the life of a universal poet, who wrote: "I am the most rich person in the world / My love is enough for everybody"!.. And really, can a poet's life be taken hostage?!.

Ozgur Politika, Daily Newspaper, 26 October 2002 Saturday, Germany