Yearning for Home: 'Tell Me About Istanbul' by Nazim Hikmet

Yearning for Home: 'Tell Me About Istanbul' by Nazim Hikmet

Tuesday, 25 January, 2022

Turkish poet Nâzım Hikmet is now recognized as one of the great international poets of the twentieth century. But during his lifetime, this ‘romantic revolutionary’ was repeatedly arrested for his political beliefs.

Frequently exiled and imprisoned, he was homesick for Turkey for most of his life.

This poem captures the push-pull and love-hate inspired by home: the affection, the yearning, the curiosity, the knowing a place with all its flaws and beauties.

 

Tell Me About İstanbul by Nâzım Hikmet

  • Stop! Let the water of the coffee boil,
  • Tell me about İstanbul, how was it?
  • Tell me about Bosphorus, how was it?
  • June is washed by the runaway rains with vibrations,
  • Would that seven hills get dried by
  • Such a hot sun like a mother’s care…

  • Tell me people laughed there,
  • In trains, ferries, buses.
  • I like it even if it’s a lie, say it.
  • Always agony, always agony, always agony
  • Had enough…

  • Stop! Let it stay, don’t turn the TV on
  • Tell me about İstanbul, how was it?
  • Tell me about the city of cities, how was it?
  • While looking in my forbidden eyes from the hills of Beyoglu,
  • Make compliments about bridges, Sarayburnu, minarets, and Haliç.
  • Could you say a hello, secretly…

  • Tell me people laughed there,
  • In trains, ferries, buses.
  • I like it even if it’s a lie, say it.
  • Always agony, always agony, always agony
  • Had enough…

  • Stop! Leave it, don’t move stay like that, please
  • Your scent is like İstanbul, and your eyes like İstanbul nights.
  • Now come and hug, hug me the one with henna.
  • Under the sky, just there together
  • The dream of starting over by saying thanks to god
  • Is like a river in the desert of your longing.

  • Tell me people laughed there,
  • In trains, ferries, buses.
  • I like it even if it’s a lie, say it.
  • Always agony, always agony, always agony
  • Had enough…

rule

black and white photo of poet nazim hikmet

About Nâzım Hikmet

Born in Salonika, Ottoman Empire (now Thessaloníki, Greece), in 1902, Turkish poet and novelist Nâzım Hikmet was lit with fire early in life. He published his first poems when he was just 17 years old. After WWI, he left Allied-occupied Turkey for Moscow, where he studied at university and met other artists from all over the world. When Turkey achieved independence in 1924, he returned home but was soon arrested for working on a leftist magazine. This was a repeating pattern: writing, arrest, escape, writing, arrest. (When he was imprisoned in the 1940s, artist Pablo Picasso, singer Paul Robeson, and philosopher Jean-Paul Sartre teamed up to campaign for his release.) Hikmet left Turkey for the final time in 1951 and lived the rest of his life in the Soviet Union and eastern Europe. His works were banned in his homeland until 1965, but he’s now considered one of Turkey’s most beloved writers.

Top image courtesy of Ibrahim Uzun/Unsplash.

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