Is there any particular writer or poet who you’d love to translate?
Yes, there was this poet called Mustafa Irgat. He was a friend of [the poet] Ahmet Güntan. His father was a jeune of 1940s Turkish films; a village man who became famous through cinema, and then he was a poet. But he was very different from Mustafa Irgat, more of the poetry of love and so on. Irgat’s father was a heroin addict. His mother Mina Urgan was one of the first Communist women in Turkey, a professor of English literature at Istanbul University. She was a very aristocratic and educated woman who went to the American College for Girls [now part of Robert College]. She briefly became famous ten years ago – before she died at the age of 90 she wrote her memoirs, and so she was famous in the 40s and 50s, fell into oblivion, and then became famous again before she died. She never mentions a word about her son, Mustafa Irgat. He idolised the poet Ece Ayhan, who was a sort of anarchist, never had a home, lived in other people’s houses, made a couple of them commit suicide, had a bad influence, basically was a kind of a leech. And Mustafa Irgat, all of his life, became a disciple to this guy, and never had a house, lived in hotel rooms. He never finished a poem all of his life. There were poems that he edited so much that they turned into very different poems, work that he would start in 1972 or ‘73 and then work on until his death in 1994 or 1995. And there were still poems unfinished. He has around thirty poems and thousands of notes. Before he died of cancer, they forced him to publish whatever he had, and these thirty poems that he had been editing for over twenty something years were published. For five years Güntan looked over all the leftovers of Mustafa Irgat, pieces written on pieces of scrap paper, or on napkins, and then he did a second book of poetry.
There are whole poems written in these notes?
Yes. And the name of the book is It’s hard to finish, which was a note that Mustafa Irgat took for himself in one of the poems. Hard to finish. I want to translate that guy.
I could say one last thing – that guy I wanted to translate, Mustafa Irgat, because he revised his poetry over 20 years, all of the initial words have changed over a hundred times, and his end product is such a weird, cacophonous anti-lyrical poetry that it has its own sacredness. This is what I believe. To a common reader maybe it’s just bullshit. The weird thing is it’s all through free associations, or associations with some context, but at the same time they all end up being un-free because how could all those words have come to be in that combination? In the book that Güntan put together he also put in previous versions. So if you translate into English, is it just the end product as you understand it or should you translate the whole process?