The poets do not only lead a life, they lead the emotions of us all.

55 years ago on June 3, Nazım Hikmet Ran, the first modern Turkish poet known in foreign literature circles as well died of a heart attack in Moscow. Nazım Hikmet is recognized all around the world as one of the great international poets and many of his works have been translated into English, including Human Landscapes from My Country: An Epic Novel in Verse (2009), Things I Didn’t Know I Loved (1975), The Day Before Tomorrow (1972), and Selected Poems (1967).

Nazım Hikmet was born in 1902 in Salonika, Ottoman State. His early poems were published at the age of seventeen. After the first World War, Hikmet left Turkey and moved to Moscow where he attended the university [The Communist University of Eastern Proletariat] . After the foundation of Turkish Republic he came back to Turkey but soon after he was arrested accused of being part of leftist organizations. Hikmet stayed behind bars for more than a decade.

In 1951, Nazım Hikmet was denationalized. He left Turkey for the last time in 1951 and lived in the Soviet Union. The poems of Nazım Hikmet could not be published between the years 1938-1965. Hikmet is known as dedicating his years to the Communist ideal besides being a successful poet. As known, the years of 1930s were characterized by the rise of fascist rulers and ultra-right wing politics all over the world. In Turkey with the enactment of Takrir-i Sükun Kanunu in 1925 (Law on the Maintenance of Order), the pressure gained strength and the books of Nazım Hikmet caused investigations. Nazım Hikmet spent many years of his life in prison and exile.

The life of Nazım Hikmet is an example of both success and failure. A great success for Turkish literature and poetry but a big failure for Turkish political system, namely democracy. The question is that how on earth can a poet (making his living via his pen) overthrow government or cause internal upheaval?! The answer and/or your thoughts about Nazım Hikmet depend on the lenses through which you look at the world.

Lastly, as I stated in the beginning, the poets do not only lead a life, they lead the emotions of us all. Nazım Hikmet Ran has been the spokesman of our hopes, dreams, rebellions, anger, fear, struggles, solidarity…

Here are some of Nazım Hikmet’s numerous works:

  • About Victory
  • The Big Humanity
  • The Clouds, do not kill man
  • The Birth
  • The Optimism
  • The Women
  • My Heart
  • About Death
  • How Are You?
  • Poems written for Piraye
  • It’s This Way


It’s This Way

I stand in the advancing light,
my hands hungry, the world beautiful.

My eyes can’t get enough of the trees–
they’re so hopeful, so green.

A sunny road runs through the mulberries,
I’m at the window of the prison infirmary.

I can’t smell the medicines–
carnations must be blooming nearby.

It’s this way:
being captured is beside the point,
the point is not to surrender.

Trans. by Randy Blasing and Mutlu Konuk (1993)



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