The recent explosion of Istanbul’s arts scene has put Turkey’s largest metropolis firmly on the cultural compass and poets across the world are hearing the call. In this spirit, American poet Dan Boylan and New Zealand poet Fred Simpson have gathered for a one-night celebration honoring the world’s oldest love poem, which currently has its home in the city’s archaeological museum.
Entitled The Call to Poetry, the April 5th event will feature additional English-language and Turkish Cypriot poets and a selection of verse from Cairo’s Tahrir Square, with support from members of Istanbul’s leading ex-pat community theater company, The Square Peg Theatre Troupe.
Boylan has long been enchanted by the rippling flow of Turkish poetry. As a teenager he asked one of America’s most famous poets for advice. Allen Ginsberg had just sung the lines “Holy Istanbul” from his poem, “Footnote to Howl” and he told Boylan to “follow your inner moonlight.” This led Boylan to Rumi’s religious “Mesnevi,” and its influence on Ottoman poetry. A global troubadour, Boylan soon read Mustafa Kemal Atatürk’s famous condolences at Galipoli for fallen Anzac soldiers, which made him cry. Later, Nâzým Hikmet’s poem about the walnut tree in Gulhane Park had Boylan howling with laughter.
Also a filmmaker, Boylan won acclaim at the 2008 Cannes Film Festival for his comedy about terrorism, A Free Radical. Relaying upon archetypes and humor Boylan’s verse has fueled the Los Angeles underground poetry circuit. At The Call to Poetry he will premiere work about Satan soon to be published in a collection entitled, Oh God Yes. “In Istanbul, I am going to find good poetry by going down the street, turning right and then getting lost,” said Boylan with a smile.
Inspired by Istanbul’s rich poetic traditions, Simpson visits from New Zealand to mark the release of his book of poetry, Lucky Me! Featured in literary journals and magazines across Australia, South Africa and New Zealand, Simpson is recognized for evoking memory as a form of both catharsis and detachment.
One of his earlier works, “Alienation” ends with a powerful chorus, “I had the option of staying on the moon, of making a permanent home there, but everyone had gone, everyone; so I reattached my wings and flew towards the sun.”
A doctor by training, Simpson is exited about his Istanbul appearance. “You live for moments like these, celebrating the essence of life through a gathering of poetry in a city that straddles time and culture with an ease and grace,” he said.
Istanbul-based journalist David Trilling will serve as the master of ceremonies for the event, being held off Taksim Square at Bar-ish from 20:00 - 21:30. The Call to Poetry will include traditional and avant-garde Turkish music, and a rowdy, respectful reading from the 4,000 year-old clay tablet known as Istanbul #2461. Penned for a Sumerian king, a translation of the world’s oldest love poem speaks for itself: “Lion, let me caress you, my precious caress is more savory than honey.”
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