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Saturday, February 02, 2008

Loving Words

Maureen from England writes:

I was born and raised in the West Midlands, but I fell in love with a man who is Turkish. After dating for about a year, we planned a trip to Turkey so I could meet his family, none of whom spoke English. I spent three months taking lessons in Turkish. It was extremely hard learning this new language so late in life, but I stuck with it, keeping in mind that I would get to know his family better and strengthen our relationship. Plus, I would learn more about my man and his culture. I was finding it difficult to get into it, but then I found your blog. Of course after meeting my man I found out who Tarkan was... your blog have me the kick I needed, made me see in a way I could relate to, and your translations really helped me to boost my vocabulary, as I was learning to music in a way and it was easier to remember.

I certainly wasn't fluent when the lessons were over, but I was a big hit during the visit and was definitely able to get to know his family well beyond smiles and nods and even learned from his mother the secrets to cooking my man's favourite traditional Turkish dishes. I took your book along, too. I felt like I was in it half the time! His mother is just like Selma! We just got married in June in a ceremony that was conducted in both Turkish and English, much of which I helped write, using some lines from some of your beautiful poetry!

Your contributions have made a big impact on my life. Thank you doesn't seem enough, but thank you so very much!

Your appreciation is more than payment in full. Just do one thing for me, have a long and joyous marriage, filled with the love, tolerance and understanding it has so clearly begun with. Thank you for getting in touch.


Marsha from Denver, USA writes:

Your poetry is just amazing... these two passages "forgiveness is not a place of far ago hills with indelible dimensions/if we walk towards them/they will near" and "hope is the tightest cord that ties the wish to the star" are keeps, real gems. Great fridge magnet sayings if I ever saw any!


S.N. writes:

More than the Tarkan writings, I just want to say I find your poetry of The Boy and His Goddess truly inspiring and breathtaking.

Thank you S.N., and I fully support your own poetical quests. If you need a helping hand along your journey, all you need do is ask.


Richard from Rotherham, England writes:

hey Ali! you have woken me up to me surroundings and give me this stuff in your blog all for nothing unlike most of the talentless junk forced down our throats on the Net, your blog is a place I can come to enjoy and relax and a day's hard work. I love the way you write. Your words shine. Just one complaint, though. Always want to read more.


Arnold Reisman PhD PE writes:

Just got on to it. Thank you for citing me ...

Thank you sir for taking the time to write to me. I will research the extra émigré information you forwarded with great interest.


P.I. from Spain writes:

As a Tarkan fan I feel very lucky that I am reading the English translations from a quality poet and writer and heart like you! This adds extra quality to the works I will not get from any other, not even if they were on an official site, unless they are yours or copy yours!

Thank you for letting me be the first to read the translations to Tarkan's Metamorfoz. I am proud of that.


S.B. in Germany writes:

I was wondering when you planned on opening your [Metamorfoz] translations page to everyone. I live/work in Germany now and his CD is coming out ... and would love to be able to access your translations. I have seen other sites but they translate as I would "word for word" without the underlying meanings as you provide. Please consider removing the password. If not, I can be patient a little longer.

I had initially planned to make them public much sooner, but due to the requests of some of my readers whom have asked that I keep it private for a while longer, they will remain locked to the general public until further notice.


Dr Marshall from London, England writes:

I have just finished reading your [Metamorfoz] translations that you so kindly sent me. I thought they were best suited for my daughter, but when I saw your extensive explanations and essays at the site for every song, I was glad I took a look, too. You truly have outdone yourself and set the work apart from anything I believe anyone else could do.

Thank you for your kind words, but I really enjoyed translating those songs, and it was like a study of a kind. However, because of the nature of the lyrics this time around, I didn't want to make it too long, or boring, or have information overkill. I hope I got the balance right.

I explain the nuances of the Turkish language for the benefit of the translations at the site, but I just want to point out here seeing as the subject has come up, the special characteristic of Turkish words and the way they differ from English words - and the special difficulty this might bring to someone translating creative works.

In modern English, words are generally static in meaning - we can blur or pin them down to their meaning(s), decorate or strip them down, or set them to shine within a certain context - but for all intents and purposes an "apple" is an "apple".

This is not so with Turkish words. The characteristic of Turkish words is such that they are not static. You think you've gotten to know a Turkish word, and then suddenly it moves out of the grasp of your understanding and reveals another dimension to itself. This is because the Turkish lexicon is like a sponge that soaks up centuries of usage. As generations of speakers use the words, they add their own meanings and interpretations that are retained by the word as another facet to its meaning. Like passing down folk tales in the oral traditional, the words themselves are an inheritance of a kind, passed down to new speakers filled with the wisdom of the old.

Let me give an example. The Turkish word "çınar" is the word used for a plane tree (chinar). However, when used by a native Turkish person, that one word conjures up more than simply the image of a certain tree. It can in turn conjure up meanings of strength, security, abundant shade, of respect and of legends. The tale of the country's founding father Atatürk who would rather physically move his villa than cut the limb of his neighbouring chinar tree has become part of the word, in some cases becoming imbued with the moral of that story and the characteristics of Atatürk himself. In a language that sticks to symbolism, a "tree" is not just a "tree".

There is a poetry programme I used to watch sometimes on state broadcaster's second channel TRT2, where they dedicate one programme to one word, and research and investigate the hundreds of meanings and poems that have shifted a particular word's boundaries, have filled it, adopted it, impregnated it with so many different meanings. For a lover of words, it is the proverbial roller-coaster ride.

I remember as a child when I introduced myself to the Turkish language, and started to teach myself to read and write the language I had learnt to speak by listening to my parents talk, it was amazing to lose myself in words that seemed to grow in meaning and depth as one became more educated.

To appreciate the Turkish language - as with all languages frankly, but even more so with Turkish - education is key. The timbre of the words also have a life of their own; the more "educated" the person (book or heart-educated makes no difference), the more beautiful Turkish will sound to the ear.

Tarkan's managed to capture that flexibility of poetical vision, and it has brought out my admiration in that, even though he came to Turkey at the age of thirteen, he really has mastered the Turkish language. And, although trying to grab hold of a meaning in the 2007 lyrics and pin it down has sometimes been as difficult as trying to catch a fish in a running brook with my bare hands, the final result has been all the more satisfying because of the chase.

Thank you to all, whom in their own ever widening vision, have seen it and appreciated it.

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