Wednesday, August 4, 2010

This week's poem


     Tea, how beautiful in glasses
     In morning light
     The day so beautiful
     The beautiful boy
     The brown tea

In our new millenium there are no schools of poetry. There are only approaches, directions, techniques, sometimes forms. This minimalist poem by Orhan Veli Kanik, translated by Richard Schwarzenberger and Grace Martin Smith, makes use of a fairly well-established device: present a single image, locate it in time and space --here an outdoor cafe on a sunny morning in Istanbul-- and let the reader's imagination fill in the rest.

My own imagination--I'm feeling a bit pious this morning-- refuses to sexualize the scene. If the boy referred to is indeed a child, I think most children are charismatic by nature, and it doesn't take more than six lines of verse to transport me to an outdoor cafe in Istanbul, where I'd feel at home like you wouldn't believe, with or without the boy. Talk to me about civilized life styles.

Orhan Veli Kanik died in Istanbul in 1950, at the age of thirty-six. If I knew someone who spoke Turkish, I'd post a soundbite here so we could hear the poem. It appeared in Listening to Istanbul: Selected Poems of Orhan Veli Krank, Autumn Press, 2002, Emeryville, CA.

Richard Schwarzenberger is one of our best San Francisco writers: see for yourself  In Faro's Garden.


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